Both parties are to blame for heated confrontation
Tom Shiflett is right to ask how it came to be that armed authorities broke through his door last Friday night and hauled off his son for medical treatment.For a good part of the answer, however, the Apple Tree Park resident should also look at his own actions.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario’s decision to send an All Hazards Response Team strikes us as overreaction to the circumstances. But Shiflett bears some of the blame for letting things escalate to the point that Vallario made that decision.Shiflett has every right to make decisions when it comes to the welfare of his family. He also has every right to be upset over this entire incident. But there were many opportunities for him to defuse the situation before it escalated to the extreme.The incident has drawn much criticism from people who subscribe to the philosophy that a man’s home is his castle and that the actions taken by authorities last week are examples of excessive government intrusion. But our rights to privacy are balanced out by entirely appropriate laws that seek to protect children.Shiflett’s 11-year-old son, Jon, was injured in an accident a day earlier, and the Shiflett family members treated him on their own. When someone became concerned and called paramedics things started spiraling out of control.This is where today’s society and culture are much different from the past.Was this a nosey neighbor or concerned citizen who called paramedics? The definition depends on which side of this argument you’re on.There are so many headlines today about abused children, children’s safety and welfare, and situations where law enforcement should have been called and were not.This was not an incident of child abuse or neglect in any fashion, but all one must do is imagine a different scenario to see why paramedics and eventually law enforcement were called in.Once paramedics arrived, Shiflett refused treatment for his son, despite the paramedics’ worry over what they saw and belief that Jon should be taken to a doctor to have a head injury examined.And so things began to escalate. County social service caseworkers are legally required to respond if they receive a report of possible mistreatment of children.It’s an awkward and potentially irritating situation for any family. But there are laws that must be followed.A head injury is not to be taken lightly. If caseworkers hadn’t done their jobs and this boy ended up dying for lack of treatment, the media would be writing about how authorities had failed to do their duty.Caseworkers even offered to pay for Jon’s treatment, but Shiflett refused.That’s when authorities were compelled to get a court order.There are two different stories that emerge. One from Shiflett’s perspective and the other from Vallario’s. If paramedics did indeed come into the Shiflett home through an open door uninvited, then the family has valid reasons to be upset.Vallario said Shiflett wouldn’t comply when deputies showed up to enforce the court order, reacting to them in a confrontational manner, as he apparently also had with the paramedics and caseworkers. That’s when Vallario resorted to using the response team.To knock in a door and point guns at children was a far too aggressive move. We share Shiflett’s concern that this was an overreaction that was traumatic for his entire family. However, we also understand the tactics police must employ to protect themselves when they deem it necessary to enter a home with potentially hostile occupants. At a time of increasing violence in Garfield County, and when local officers have recently been the victims of shootings, no one wants to see any more injured.In Shiflett’s case, officers had justification to be concerned for their safety.In 2005 he admitted to chasing a man with an ax. Charges were eventually dropped against Shiflett but it remains an example of hostility.For all that, we still hope Vallario will consider whether he had exhausted all options to obtain Shiflett’s cooperation before having officers forcibly enter his home.Too aggressive? Probably. An overreaction? Maybe. Both sides partly to blame? Definitely.The best part of this entire incident is that there can be a discussion without a tragedy being part of the equation. We hope valuable lessons have been learned on both sides.
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