Police Comb Wooded Area After Gunfire Reported, But Find No Bodies
RATHDRUM, Idaho (AP) _ A force of 70 to 80 heavily armed officers searched a wooded area today to investigate reports of gunfire and a motorcycle gang war but found nothing, while authorities charged a man who reported seeing several bodies with drug possession.
Around dawn, a special weapons and tactics team and some narcotics agents surrounded a secluded residence where the man told officers he had seen the bodies in a large burial ground after a barrage of gunfire Friday evening, said Dennis Bonneau, a reserve officer with the Rathdrum Police Department.
But officers found nothing to support the report, said Kootenai County Prosecutor Glen Walker, who was at the scene 20 miles north of Post Falls.
Although all the officers at the scene of the secluded house were being released, Walker said police were seeking a man the witness claimed he saw dead, with an arrow sticking out of his chest.
A drug charge was filed against the witness, identified as George William Lane, after small amounts of cocaine and marijuana were found on him at the Kootenai County Jail, where he told deputies his story.
″Something happened at that property,″ Walker said. But he added that no evidence was found that would indicate a struggle or shooting took place at the home of a woman identified as Sally Huston, who was last seen with Lane about 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Lane told deputies that he and Ms. Huston heard shooting outside the residence and that Lane ″hit the floor″ while Ms. Huston fled, Walker said.
″There is no indication the gunfight occurred, but she’s missing,″ Walker said.
″Until we get her, we don’t know what happened.″
Walker said Lane was with Ms. Huston when she told three friends that she had seen about 20 ″biker types″ wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying rifles on her property.
Three men dressed in combat fatigues and a woman were taken into custody for questioning Friday night but were released today, Walker said.
Walker said a single 22-caliber shell casing was found near a hat and binoculars that Lane said he dropped after being fired upon after he found a pile of 15 to 30 bodies and saw people digging graves.
″There is absolutely nothing to prove that that occurred,″ Walker said.
″I think I can safely say the search (for bodies) has been concluded until, or unless, additional information is forthcoming.″
Bonneau said Lane ″has been known to have a false report before,″ but that officials went along with the man because he seemed honest and was shaking as he told his story.
The police operation was closed to reporters and photographers, who were asked to remain at a command center about 1 1/2 miles northwest of the dwelling.
Sheriff’s deputies and Idaho State Police officers carried semi-automatic rifles and shotguns when they moved into position. Some FBI agents also were at the scene, said Sheriff’s Lt. John Smith.
No residents of the rural area were evacuated, but some weren’t allowed to pass road blocks to go home, authorities said. The town of Twin Lakes has a population of approximately 400 people.
Authorities controlled a total area of about 20 square miles.
Kootenai Medical Center had been put on alert for possible dead and injured, though this was canceled late Friday night, said nursing supervisor Midge Heisel.