AP NEWS

Captured fugitive’s parents speak out about son

October 13, 2018

MCADOO, Pa. (AP) — Shawn Christy is not an anti-government nor an anti-law enforcement radical, his parents said in a recent wide-ranging interview.

And is he not politically motivated, they insist.

So, who is Shawn Christy?

And why did the 26-year-old McAdoo man threaten President Donald Trump and lead authorities on a multi-state, 95-day manhunt?

Karen and Craig Christy say Shawn asked the government for assistance after a 2017 incident, and when he didn’t get a response, he acted out.

“His back was to the wall,” Craig said.

Craig and Karen say Shawn used his keyboard to vent his frustrations via social media to Trump and other elected officials over the injustice he perceived from local public officials.

The threats he allegedly posted led to a federal indictment against him in June.

But before he was a fugitive, Shawn Christy was a “simple man,” something his parents say got lost in the barrage of news stories and public opinions that flooded social media accounts as the story of his flight unfolded.

That flight apparently crossed six state lines, the U.S.-Canadian border and involved multiple suspected break-ins and vehicle thefts.

It began June 20 when police say they attempted his arrest on a bench warrant for a 2017 aggravated assault case in McAdoo, a probation violation in Northampton County and the threats he made online against Trump, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and police. It culminated 440 miles to the west on Sept. 21 with his apprehension near an Ohio stream bed.

It all leaves many unanswered questions — for the public and his parents.

The reasons

Craig Christy said the manhunt and recent threats would have never happened if someone responded to complaints he and Shawn filed last year against a former McAdoo mayor and borough police.

The complaints stem from a March 15, 2017, confrontation between Shawn and then-mayor Stephan Holly over snow removal. It ended with Shawn facing four felony counts of aggravated assault and two misdemeanors for simple assault after borough police say he swung a “large” stick at Holly.

Shawn and Craig were later also charged with harassment after numerous phone calls were placed to McAdoo and nearby Kline Twp. police regarding the pending case.

Holly was not charged, though Shawn and his family believe he should have been. They also believe video surveillance of the incident was edited. Those complaints were never acted on in Schuylkill County, and attempts for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to intervene also received no response, Craig said. An attempt to get comment from the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s office for this story went unanswered.

Shawn, who claimed there was a conspiracy to set him up, was facing years in prison for the case and he felt he had no option but to sound off on Facebook, Craig said.

“Keep it up Morganelli, I promise I’ll put a bullet in your head as soon as I put one in the head of President Donald J. Trump,” read one post.

“Your (sic) a dead man...Lets (sic) play,” another threat in the four-count indictment read. The indictment states the target of that threat was a person only identified as “J.M.”

Why he targeted Trump and Morganelli remains a mystery, his parents say.

Craig said Shawn had dealings in Northampton County over a $25 tax Shawn refused to pay because he felt the bill was issued erroneously. When he was told his wages would be garnished, he lashed out at the county tax collector on March 13, 2017, threatening to blow the office up and shoot the tax collector, Craig said. The outburst resulted in a jail stay followed by probation.

He first found trouble eight years ago under somewhat similar circumstances. In September 2010, the Standard-Speaker interviewed the Christy family surrounding a protection from abuse order that then-Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took out against him. Shawn believed he was receiving phone messages from Palin.

Shawn said he reached out to Palin, then-President Barack Obama and then-Sen. John McCain for help, When he didn’t get a response, he allegedly began sending threats thinking it would get attention and answers.

Shawn got attention, via the protection from abuse order that Palin requested. She said he continually contacted her after he was told to stop and even after the PFA was issued. In her defense for the order, Palin said that Shawn visited her home state, she feared him and claimed he was delusional. Craig said Shawn had a full psychiatric evaluation in July 2009 and wasn’t declared to be delusional.

Shawn claimed she had a sexting relationship with him. Both Shawn and Craig were arrested in Allentown on federal charges in 2011 for making the hundreds of harassing phone calls to the offices of Palin’s attorney. They pleaded guilty in federal court to one felony each for making the calls and were sentenced to time served plus five years probation.

Craig calls Shawn’s history of trouble a cycle of injustice that began with the PFA. All Shawn wanted was to be treated with the same fairness of others, Craig said.

“And all he’s asking for is the law to work both ways. Not to have selective law. Why should these people be able to get justice and he can’t?” Craig questioned.

His criminal history is a strike against him, Craig said. It will likely count against him in sentencing on the threats.

“When you’re a felon, you’re a felon for life,” Craig said.

Shawn longed to find steady work, get married and have his own family. But his criminal history became a barrier, Craig said.

He planned on becoming a gunsmith, but his criminal history prevents him from owning or possessing guns. Karen said she can’t place him on her car insurance policy because of his past.

The injustices Shawn spoke of online got the attention of Celia Harris of Idaho in 2009. She sympathized, claiming she dealt with her own injustices. Harris offered her opinion on Shawn in a phone interview with the Standard-Speaker. She never met Shawn, but through messaging over the years, said he’s a “very intelligent” person who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as she does because of the way they feel sabotaged. Craig said he was never diagnosed with the disorder but he doesn’t argue that Shawn may have PTSD.

Harris said that during times when most would cower, Shawn stood tall and, though he made “idle” threats, he never acted on them. She worries about obstacles he’ll confront as a felon facing a new case in the court system.

Under the cover

“He’s very elusive,” Deputy Robert Clark, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force said in August.

Behind the evasive man, known mostly through news accounts and memes on social media, is another side, his parents say. Karen spoke tenderly of her child, a neat person who cleaned up after himself and their family cats and pet bird. Their only child, he was independent and educated through a traditional home school program until Karen noticed he was bored with the curriculum and found a student-directed home schooling method to challenge him.

Shawn was born in a hospital in Voorhees Twp., New Jersey, but raised in Maple Shade, New Jersey, about a 20-minute drive away.

Growing up in Maple Shade, he found playmates and instant socialization with a daycare facility next door to his home, his parents said. When the family moved to Pennsylvania in 2006, du to the cost of living, he began to make friends in his teenage years while they lived in Butler Twp.

As a child, Shawn enjoyed Christmas and holiday lights. He even won a prize in Maple Shade for decorating the family doghouse. Later, he came to realize that people spend a lot of money on things they don’t need, while others starve, Karen said. That revelation changed Shawn. He began to live a more primitive existence, reflected in his family’s McAdoo home, void of decoration, save a Native American wolf tapestry hanging from the living room wall. The family bought the home in McAdoo in 2007.

All of Shawn’s personal possessions can fit in his backpack, which his parents believe he lost during the Maryland leg of the manhunt, Karen said.

“He has very little other things,” Craig said.

He practices Native American beliefs and embodies the characteristics noted in one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most popular songs, “Simple Man,” Craig added.

Shawn isn’t afraid of hard work. Craig said he cleaned tanks for the fracking industry in Bradford County, climbing into the vessels before removing muck inside them for hours. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be covered in dirt at day’s end.

He can be compassionate, Karen said. Without being asked, Shawn fixed a neighbor’s door a few years back after she fell in her home and a rescue attempt involved the door being broken down. Craig said Shawn wants to protect people, and, though he may do things in an unorthodox way, he isn’t a bad person.

Karen watched him plow through book after book for fun while growing up, and Craig often taught him wilderness survival skills.

Shawn built his first debris hut at age 10, a moment his parents captured in a picture displayed in their living room. The hut was made with sticks and leaves and natural debris. Shawn knows how to live off the land, though he’s accused of break-ins involving theft of food while on the lam.

The manhunt endured as for so long because of survival skills Shawn honed over his life, they said.

Shawn practiced his wilderness skills as an adult on his own in other states — including Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, his parents said. He worked for a casino in Bozeman, Montana, and even offered Montana Public Radio an interview as they worked on a story about the homeless in 2017, Karen said.

In the woods is where he feels at peace, his parents said. That’s where he was when law enforcement came to his family’s door on rear South Harrison Street in June to arrest him, they said. Craig said Shawn’s attorney in the matter told him he didn’t need to appear in court, so Shawn went into the woods.

“That’s how he did so good out there,” Craig said.

He never returned home. Instead, law enforcement officials say he hid while they searched.

His parents believe Shawn was playing tag with law enforcement as he crossed state lines on the run as his story circulated nationwide.

Though they uncovered some information from phone conversations with Shawn after his arrest and sparse information gleaned from the two Facebook postings and a Facebook message Shawn wrote two weeks prior to his capture, Karen said she and Craig don’t know many answers regarding his flight.

They still have many questions for Shawn, like why did he return to the U.S. from Canada, where they say he visited a native reservation. Shawn’s great-grandfather was part Mohawk, but that’s his only known connection. Craig said he actually went to Montreal and Quebec, too, before coming back stateside.

“We don’t know all the answers,” Karen said.

Craig said he and Karen designed a “soft surrender” plan at their home early in the search and offered to help officers find him. The Christys went searching for him and came frustratingly close to him a few times, finding camps, footprints and clothing he left behind, Craig said. They wanted him to surrender and warned sympathizers not to assist him evading law enforcement.

After his arrest, Shawn spoke to his parents from the jailhouse phone, saying he moved mostly during the night and they believe he had access to multiple cellphones while on the run. While hiding in the woods, he likely took cover in thick vegetation to conceal himself. Craig said Shawn cried often while on the run, if not for the isolation and homesickness, for the physical toll it took on his body resulting in a knee injury and two teeth that need to be pulled, according to Craig.

Craig said he initially turned Shawn into authorities when he saw the threatening Facebook posts about Trump on his page, but assumed a few law enforcement officers would simply come to the home and talk to him. Instead, he said, they showed up with a search warrant and a large police presence. The Christys thought the search was overblown, claiming their home was smashed, two family cats were injured and another was killed when the arrest warrant was served.

Though labeled as a threat by police, Karen and Craig don’t believe Shawn would hurt anyone or act on the statements he allegedly made. He allegedly was in another state during the manhunt on Aug. 2, when Trump spoke at Mohegan Sun Area to support U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta’s Senate campaign in Wilkes-Barre Twp., about 30 miles north of Christy’s home. Craig said guns allegedly taken by Shawn on the run were used to hunt game for food.

Shawn’s story was covered at first only by local media, but as it endured through three months, made national news with coverage on CNN, Reuters, Newsweek and the Washington Post. He amassed 4,500 followers on a Facebook page that calls him a “political prisoner” and has a GoFundMe page for his legal expenses. Shawn was the subject of social media memes and other parodies which Karen and Craig said helped ease the stress, especially when witnessing the death threats made against their son while on the run.

At times, Craig said, the reason for Shawn’s actions seemed overshadowed or dismissed in the mainstream media and, like many people accused of a crime, he got dehumanized in the court of public opinion.

“Shawn was just your average every day guy who was forced to act out because of the injustice against him,” he said.

He awaits transfer to Pennsylvania where he will answer charges against him.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2y96Mv7

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Information from: Standard-Speaker, http://www.standardspeaker.com

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