URGENT Standoff Ends on 13th Day with Policeman Killed, Ringleader Wounded
MARION, Utah (AP) _ Bursts of gunfire Thursday ended a tense, 13-day standoff between a polygamist clan and police, killing an officer and seriously wounding the group’s leader, who was suspected of bombing a Mormon chapel.
The shooting erupted just after dawn as police who had infiltrated the clan’s compound used a police dog to try to isolate Addam Swapp and his brother from the log house they had left moments before, officials said.
In the exchange of gunfire, the dog’s handler was shot in the abdomen and Swapp fell in the snow with bullet wounds in the arm and chest, said John T. Nielsen, Utah’s public safety director.
The operation didn’t go as planned in part because the dog hesitated after being ordered to attack the Swapps, said FBI agent Cal Clegg.
Utah State Prison Lt. Fred House and the dog were hidden in a building about 30 yards from the Swapps when the command was given. When the dog hesitated, House, 35, stood up in the doorway to urge it on and was struck by a bullet between the armored plates in his flak jacket, Clegg said.
Agents fired two rounds, which struck Swapp, Clegg said. Swapp stood and walked into the house and began waving a white towel through the doorway. He then walked to an outbuilding where officers had hidden and surrendered, Clegg said.
″In the succeeding, following moments after the gunfire, the agents moved in an armored personnel carrier to evacuate those who were wounded and they came under extremely heavy gunfire from the ... residence,″ Nielsen said.
More than 100 rounds poured from the log house for 15 to 30 minutes before Swapp’s brother, Jonathan, 21, called the police command post on the compound’s telephone and asked how to surrender, Clegg said.
Then Jonathan Swapp, the clan’s four other adults and nine children filed from the house in two groups, their arms above their heads.
″We are very happy to report in this - that’s if there’s anything to be happy about in this tragic situation - that all of the children are safe,″ Nielsen said.
The siege had begun within hours of the predawn bombing Jan. 16 of a Mormon chapel a half-mile from the compound. That night, police talked by telephone with Swapp, who said the bombing was revenge against the church and state for the 1979 police slaying of polygamist patriarch John Singer. He told others he sought an armed confrontation to bring about Singer’s resurrection.
The polygamists broke away from the mainline Mormon Church over its ban on polygamy in 1890.
Nielsen said the decision to seize Swapp, 27, on federal warrants was made after a family friend delivered to police Wednesday afternoon Swapp’s response to a letter from Gov. Norm Bangerter pleading with him to surrender. Nielsen said Swapp ″declared his ranch and people an independent and free nation″ and warned he would use any means to defend the 2 1/2 -acre compound.
Vickie Singer, Swapp’s mother-in-law and widow of John Singer, was taken from the compound to a federal courthouse in Salt Lake City for arraignment on charges related to the Jan. 16 church bombing and gunfire that had punctuated the standoff.
As Mrs. Singer, 44, was brought into the federal building in Salt Lake City in handcuffs, she was asked if her children were all right. ″They’re all being taken away from us,″ she said.
Teary-eyed and wiping her nose, she pleaded innocent before a federal magistrate.
Her wheelchair-bound son, Timothy, 21; Addam Swapp’s wives, Heidi, 23, and Charlotte, 19, and brother Jonathan Swapp all were charged with being an accessory after the bombing. The five were ordered held without bail at the Salt Lake County Jail.
In Marion, Nolan Douglas, an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, displayed a box containing what he said were 22 sticks of dynamite found in a vehicle outside the log house.
Singer had been gunned down outside the compound nine years ago by police trying to arrest him after an 18-day standoff. Singer, who had defied a court order to send his children to public schools, allegedly drew a gun before he was killed.
Swapp, married to two Singer daughters and father of six of the clan’s children, was listed in serious but stable condition at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City. He underwent surgery on his left arm.
Legislators briefed by the governor were told that police had been planning Swapp’s capture for several days.
Officers had tried to set a trap for Swapp by installing a booby-trapped loudspeaker designed to set off a bright flash when moved. The idea was to blind Swapp while police dogs moved in to subdue him, the legislators said.
However, they said, Swapp shot at the loudspeaker, apparently tipping it over and triggering a flash not as bright as authorities had hoped.
In the letter to Bangerter, Swapp said, ″Take warning, any man of yours who attempts to cross the boundaries of this property without permission will be treated as an aggressive act on your part against us and we will defend ourselves in any manner as we see fit.″
The letters to Bangerter from Swapp and Mrs. Singer were fetched from the stronghold by Ogden Kraut, a long-time family friend and polygamy proponent. Kraut had said Swapp and Mrs. Singer remained firm in their belief that an armed confrontation with police would trigger her dead husband’s resurrection.
″There was only two ways it could end. They could either give up, or shooting,″ Kraut said Thursday.
Officials had maintained they would not storm the compound for fear of harming the nine children, five of whom were under age six.
Terry Twitchell, a state Department of Social Services spokeswoman, said her agency would take custody of the clan’s three babies. Five children ages 3 to 15 were placed in foster homes. A 17-year-old was in juvenile detention.