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"The casualties of this kind of action are always unfortunate. But, on the other hand, we've freed a lot of youngsters. And I've extended my condolences to the families.".


Sheriff Shrub Addresses The Community
Posted May 3, 2003 thepeoplesvoice.org

by Keetjie Ramo

Joe Shrub, Sheriff of Gulch County, Colorado, addressed a crowd of cheering deputies and county residents today in a speech that local insiders speculate will launch his campaign for re-election in 2004. Sheriff Shrub gained nationwide attention last month after he ordered an assault by deputies on River Rock High School that killed two students and left several others with permanent injuries. Huey Maddas, the student whose suspicious activities triggered the incident, escaped the deputies and is still at large, although he is believed to have been wounded in the incident. 

Since the tragic Columbine High School shootings in nearby Littleton in 1999, Shrub has waged a war on juvenile delinquency in the county. An affable man with close allies on the River Rock City Council and School Board, Shrub declared a zero tolerance policy against crimes and misdemeanors by minors. In the county, any youth who arouses suspicion at school or in the community now may be detained by deputies or police officers and held without a hearing in a special juvenile detention center in River Rock City, the Gulch County Seat. In addition, after pressure on city and school officials by Shrub and his supporters, Rock River City passed a "Good Citizen" regulation that subjects students at River Rock High School to random searches. The regulation also allows law enforcement officials to examine library and computer records to monitor the web surfing and reading choices of minors. Although some county residents whom Shrub has dubbed "effete intellectuals" have protested these policies, the Sheriff remains popular among parents and students. They support his claim that a safe Colorado depends on the county's crackdown on acting-out teenagers. 

Huey Maddas, a nineteen year-old senior, was a bright and charismatic student, but a reputed bully who got in frequent fights and who led a gang of other ne'er-do-wells, the self-styled "Democratic Guards." The group cut classes, smoked pot on school grounds, defied teachers, and terrorized younger and weaker students. Last December, after Maddas became involved with the daughter of River Rock City's Mayor Donald Rice, a close friend of Sheriff Shrub, the youth attracted the attention of local power brokers, and became the focus of Shrub's campaign against youthful misconduct. In January, the Sheriff revealed that he had information that Maddas as an eighth grader had supplied money and ammunition for the 1999 Columbine shootings. Shrub claims that this information came from an unnamed student, who provided evidence that supports this assertion. However, the Sheriff has been vague about the nature of this evidence. 

In late February, Shrub told the City Council in a closed session that he had evidence that Maddas and his gang were amassing lethal weapons that would be used against the community of Rock City. He cited "subversive" websites visited by members of the gang, as well as evidence of "violent games" on their home computers. In spite of strong objections on the part of some Council members, the Council voted by a narrow margin to allow the Sheriff to use arms, if necessary, to protect the community against Maddas and his youthful followers. 

Acting on tips from student informants that Democratic Guards led by Maddas had brought backpacks loaded with guns and bombs to the high school, on March 5 Sheriff Shrub sent a special team of deputies to the school. With information that the gang was in the school's all-purpose room, the deputies, in full SWAT gear, stormed the room where an assembly was in progress. When gang members attempted to flee, to the horror of the assembled students and adults the deputies opened fire on the group, killing a gang member and a female student and injuring several others, including a small child who was attending the assembly with her mother. The injured Maddas was able to get away after another boy, not a gang member, pushed Maddas down and rushed him out a side door to escape from the bullets. 

Deputies believe that other non-gang members aided Maddas in his escape, and that students may be hiding the fugitive and caring for his wounds. (A first aid kit from the school turned up missing after the melee.) After the assault, Sheriff Shrub told television cameras, "For you students who are aiding and abetting this reprehensible monster: you're next." 

A search of the backpacks carried by the Democratic Guards on the day of the incident turned up several bags of Doritos, an assortment of cookies and candy, four six packs of soda, a bottle of vodka, several packs of cigarettes, and a dime bag of marijuana. A spokesman from the Sheriff's department said that the vodka and soda bottles could be used to make Molotov cocktails. Although no other weapons were found either in the backpacks or the students' lockers, deputies believe that the gang may have stashed large caches of guns and ammunition in the school building and on the grounds. The search for weaponry continues. 

In his well-received speech tonight at the meeting of the Sheriff's Benevolent Society, Shrub praised his deputies for their heroic actions at Rock River High School. "We've eliminated a friend of the Columbine shooters," he said, "and Colorado is a safer place for students because of you."  Asked after his address about the student casualties, Shrub said, "The casualties of this kind of action are always unfortunate. But, on the other hand, we've freed a lot of youngsters. And I've extended my condolences to the families."

Bio: Keetjie Ramo, Ph.D. is a retired social work educator whose previous op-ed and lampoon pieces can be found on www.thepeoplesvoice.org 
ramok@mchsi.com (okay to publish)



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