SANDPOINT, Idaho, AP
Six children, believed to be armed, refused to leave their rural home after releasing a pack of dogs on sheriff’s deputies who had arrested their mother, authorities said.
Deputies who retreated from the house after a two-hour standoff Tuesday said they planned to peacefully wait out the children.
“I have a four-year term,” Sheriff Phil Jarvis said Wednesday. “I’m not going to force an issue with children.”
He said he was trying to avoid a repeat of the 1992 shootout at nearby Ruby Ridge, where the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver were killed during a standoff with federal agents.
Officers on Wednesday said a 15-year-old boy had taken a leadership role. Jarvis said the children, ages 8 to 16, would not respond to calls from social workers or police.
“We know there are six children in there and guns in the house. The kids are trained to use the guns,” Jarvis said.
The home lacks power, water and heat. The children have been caring for themselves for the past year, and for months have lived on soup made of lake water and lily pads, Jarvis said.
The children, who have been schooled at home, are being told over a loudspeaker they will be fed, housed and taken to see their mother if they come out, Jarvis said. A 19-year-old sister who left home was assisting authorities.
The incident was triggered by Tuesday’s arrest of the children’s mother, JoAnn McGuckin, on a warrant charging felony injury to a child. Jarvis declined to elaborate on the charge.
Authorities believe McGuckin, 46, is mentally ill. Her husband, Michael McGuckin, died three weeks ago.
Deputies lured McGuckin from the house Tuesday with grocery money. She was taken into custody after going to a store with a deputy who had brought the cash.
Deputies returned to the home to get the children and put them in state custody, but one of the boys ran to the house and yelled, “‘Get the guns,”‘ the sheriff said. He said the children then let the dogs out of the basement.
“They hunt. They pack like wild animals,” Jarvis said. “They took down a moose a little while ago.”
The Rev. Dennis Day, who officiated at the father’s funeral, said he had suffered from multiple sclerosis. The family rebuffed help and seemed beset with anti-government paranoia, Day said.
“Everybody saw this coming. They were dirt-poor. The kids didn’t have the right things to eat,” he said. “They really alienated themselves from the world.”
The home is located about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the community of Garfield Bay, down a dirt road just past a county dump.
Garfield Bay resident Lloyd Wyatt, 84, said the children were sometimes seen around town dressed in ragged clothing. He said he wasn’t surprised they were holed up in the house.
“We are a breed of people who say, ‘This is our home and we are entitled to protect it,'” Wyatt said.