During the afternoon of Wednesday, April 6th, 2016, after calling 911 for an ambulance, I was ordered out of my house by men brandishing machine guns, forced to stand outside in the cold with inadequate clothing for an extended period of time, and denied the medical care that I believed to the best of my knowledge I was in urgent need of. These are the events as exactly as I can reproduce them in writing. Times are only approximate, since I did not have a watch: however, the 911 transcript, as well as the report of Sheridan County Deputy Delbert Hoffmann, will assign a definite timeframe to the events.
Approximately 2:00 PM
I was in the garage, trying to start my four wheeler, which had a bad battery. I had my 1970 pickup running roughly, with the garage door open. It was putting out voluminous exhaust. I was able to start the four-wheeler and proceeded to drive it out of town.
Approximately 2:30 PM
I became horribly ill. I was violently puking, my whole body became so weak I could barely keep myself upright, and my thinking became cloudy and confused. I was terrified. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I stopped my four-wheeler and stumbled off of it and lay on the ground moaning. A pickup came on the scene and stopped. Two young men exited and asked me if I was all right. I responded, “I’m not all right. I feel so sick.” I asked them to drive me home to Martin. One of them drove me home. I was kneeling in the floorboard of his pickup, loudly moaning. I remember repeatedly saying, “I’m so sorry,” and “You’re so kind to me; thank you so much.” The other one drove my four-wheeler home. I stumbled out of the pickup and crawled into the house.
Approximately 3:00 PM
Although I’m still only estimating times, this is where the 911 call can affix an exact time to the occurrence. I called 911 right away. I was obviously in severe distress and not always coherent. I remember saying things to express my agony that could be reasonably construed as suicidal. I also remember explicitly saying that I did not want to hurt myself, and that I needed help. The operator began asking me if there were guns in the house. There are always guns in my house, since I’m a hunter; but I told him they were unloaded and put away. After what I’ll very roughly estimate to be fifteen minutes (but again, the 911 transcript can confirm exact times at this point) the operator directed me to the front door. I looked out the door and saw two men in body armor, holding machine guns. I told the operator that there were men there with machines guns and he denied that it was true.
Approximately 3:15 PM
When I cracked open the front door, I saw numerous vehicles parked along the street. I also saw the two men in body armor, holding machine guns. They raised their machine guns to a ready position, ordered me out of the house, and asked me if I had any weapons. I replied, “No! I have a flashlight.” Then I realized I was still holding the phone I had used to dial 911. I frantically said, “It’s just a phone! It’s just a phone!” They approached me, grabbed the phone out of my hand, and turned me very roughly around and very roughly patted me down and removed a very small pocket knife from my pocket and a Gerber multi-tool from my belt. They also put handcuffs on me, very tightly. When I was finally allowed to enter the ambulance, much later, the ambulance crew saw how red the cuffs had made my wrists. I can personally testify that when I took a bath after 10:00 PM I could still discern two small red marks on my left wrist where the cuffs had been.
Someone standing there, either Sheridan County Law Enforcement, Wells County Law Enforcement, or one of the unknown men brandishing machine guns, asked if he could put the items they had removed from me into my house. At first I said, “Yes”. Then, immediately afterward, I reconsidered and said, “I’m calm and respectful but I do NOT invite you into my house.” The person holding the items said, “It’s ok, I’ll just set them inside.” Then he stepped into the house, set the items down, and stepped back out. No one else sought entrance into the house after that.
At this point, one of the men standing by introduced himself as Derek. Another man immediately introduced himself as Matt. After asking around, I believe this one to be Deputy Matt Lisic from Sheridan County, but so far he hasn’t returned my call to confirm. No one else introduced themselves. Neither of the men holding me captive at gunpoint ever showed me a badge or told me who they were. They just continued to stand there with their assault weapons at the ready, refusing to let me leave. The ambulance was parked on the street for an extended period of time, but none of the crew was permitted to evaluate me until quite a lengthy period of time had elapsed.
I began saying, “I’m calm and respectful but I’m so cold. I wish I had a coat.” I said this many times, but received no response from my captors. I was visibly shivering and my nose was running quite voluminously. It was snowing at the time. I was still forced to stand there in the cold, shivering, without adequate clothing.
After I had begun to request warmer clothing, two neighbors, [name withheld] and [name withheld], walked up to me in the driveway and remained with me until I was finally permitted to warm up in the ambulance. A little later, [name withheld] also arrived. I believe that I heard them advocating for me to receive medical attention, or at least be brought somewhere warm. They are available to confirm their role. Still, no coat was given to me and I was neither brought somewhere warm nor granted a medical evaluation. Finally, after a period of time that I will estimate to be at least half an hour, [name withheld], a first responder, proceeded to the ambulance from which he brought back a thin blanket to put around my shoulders. I’m not exactly sure for what period of time he had been there; but I remember that he did talk to me, seeking to assess my mental status. I remember he doubted at one time whether I was capable of making a rational decision. I also remember him asking me if I would have hurt myself if I had had access to a weapon. I assured him that I wouldn’t have. I expressed to him that I knew I was very ill and needing help and so I made the best rational decision I was capable of, and reached out for help by calling 911. He agreed that that had been a rational decision.
Finally, I was allowed to go into the ambulance to warm up. I was still in cuffs which were very tight and making my wrists ache. The ambulance crew was very considerate and respectful. They took my vitals, which were good. At first, my blood pressure and pulse were somewhat elevated, but after I sat there for a few minutes, they came down to well within a normal range. By this time, the confusion had largely worn off. One of the crew members questioned me about smelling exhaust while I was on the four-wheeler. I remembered the running pickup in the garage. He thought carbon monoxide poisoning might account for the symptoms but no further tests were done.
Deputy Delbert Hoffmann arrived next from Sheridan County. He handcuffed me very loosely with my hands in front of me, which was much more comfortable. He then directed me to his patrol vehicle, where I sat in front with him. I informed him of the events. I told him that I had been out gathering prairie crocuses. I assured him that I had not been drinking, nor had I taken any prescription medications or illegal drugs. I told him about my practice of gathering medicinal weeds that grow in the area. I told him that I could provide him further information on species of plants and methods of preparation that I used. I offered to undergo field sobriety tests. He declined. He gave no indication that he doubted my assurance that I had not taken any drugs or alcohol.
In the meantime, [name withheld] had driven to Harvey to bring back my wife, Nicole. When I saw Nicole, I asked Deputy Hoffman if I could go talk to her. He agreed, but first very briefly talked to her alone. Then, he released me and I returned to the house. By this time, most of the symptoms that were associated with the state of medical emergency I had been in when my captors were holding me at gunpoint had been wearing off. I did develop a headache that persisted for that night and into the mid afternoon of the next day. Since then, I have been symptom free. Other than carbon monoxide poisoning, I was offered no competing theory as to what may have caused my symptoms.
Approximately 3:00 AM, Thursday, April 7th.
I had not been able to fall asleep yet. The neighbors started their pickup and the headlights shone through my window into my bedroom. I panicked and nearly dove out of bed onto the floor. Since then, I have startled very easily and felt deeply ashamed to appear in public. I developed a bad cold the next day. I also slept very poorly the next night and was troubled by bad dreams.
Since then, I have been in contact with the Sheriff’s office in Sheridan County and I have attempted to contact the Sheriff’s office in Wells County. Deputy Delbert Hoffmann gave me his personal opinion that the two men who held me captive were border patrol and that they were already in town for a traffic stop when the 911 call came in, and that they responded only because of their proximity to my location. I’m still trying to get definite answers to several specific questions:
- Who were those armed men in my driveway?
- Why did they order me out of my house at gunpoint?
- Why didn’t they ever tell me who they were or show me a badge?
- When it was clear that I was unarmed and nonviolent, why did they make me stand there in handcuffs the whole time?
- Why did they refuse me medical attention, when I had called 911 for an ambulance because I was so sick?
- Why did they ignore repeated respectful requests for a coat? Why did they just make me stand there shivering and with my nose running?
I do not believe I was treated with respect for the rights that I should have had as an American citizen. I wish to find the answers to those questions. I seek justice and closure. Furthermore, my conscience will not be clear if I allow those two men with machine guns to continue the practice of holding American citizens captive, inadequately clothed, in the cold, without medical treatment, and without ever telling them the nature of their alleged offense or the reason for being held. I sincerely hope that a satisfactory resolution can be found to this troubling case.