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A Western Colorado boy who was taken by police against his parents wishes to a hospital after he was horsing around and bumped his head says the doctor told him to put ice on the bruise, and offered him painkillers, but he said he didn’t need any.
WND has reported John Shiflett, 11, was taken to a hospital by the Garfield, Colo., County SWAT team after he fell, hitting his head on the ground, and his parents refused paramedic demands to be allowed to take him in.
A concerned neighbor apparently had called for an ambulance, but his father, Tom Shiflett, who worked with the medics corps in Vietnam, had evaluated his son and was watching him, so he told the paramedics to leave without his son.
Someone on the paramedic team then, apparently, called police and the sheriff’s office, eventually resulting in a magistrate’s order for the boy to be seized, triggering the sheriff’s decision to invade the family’s home with a SWAT team whose members had guns drawn.
“He’s got one of the best shiners I’ve every seen,” Tom Shiflett said of his son.
John Shiflett yesterday told WND that the doctor at the hospital took his blood pressure four times, and asked him if he was on any medications.
“They asked if I was healthy and I said yes,” he said. Doctors also did several X-ray procedures to evaluate his injury, and told him to drink a lot of cold liquids and “keep an ice pack on my head.” he said.
“That’s exactly what we were doing at home before we were interrupted,” he said.
Authorities have declined to explain the reasoning for the court order for the medical evaluation, and SWAT team entrance into the home.
Jim Bradford, a court clerk in Garfield County, said it was a juvenile matter and he could not comment on any aspect of the case, and he declined to allow WND to leave a message for Garfield County Magistrate Lain Leoniak, who signed the order.
A spokeswoman for WestCare Ambulance, which reportedly responded to the call, also refused to answer any questions about the case, saying all issues were considered patient confidentiality issues.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario did talk with WND about the situation, and said he simply ordered his officers to do exactly what the magistrate demanded.
“I was given a court order by the magistrate to seize the child, and arrange for medical evaluation, and that’s what we did,” he said.
Vallario said the SWAT team was dispatched, and officers knocked on the family’s door. Shiflett told WND when he answered the knock the SWAT team members already had surrounded and were approaching his house from several directions.
The SWAT team then forcibly entered the home, punching a hole in the front door and pointing guns at family members, Tom Shiflett said. The boy’s parents and siblings were thrown to the floor at gunpoint and the parents were handcuffed.
Someone, apparently the unidentified paramedic, had called police, the sheriff’s office and social services, eventually providing Leoniak with a report that generated the magistrate’s court order to the sheriff’s office for the SWAT team assault on the family’s home in a mobile home development outside of Glenwood Springs, the father told WND.
WND calls and e-mails to Garfield County Social Services also were not returned.
According to friends of the family, Tom Shiflett, who has 10 children including six still at home, and served with paramedics in Vietnam, was monitoring his son’s condition himself.
The paramedic and magistrate, however, ruled that that wasn’t adequate, and dispatched the officers to take the boy, John, to a hospital, where a doctor evaluated him and released him immediately.
The accident happened during horseplay, the family said. John was grabbing the door handle of a car as his sister was starting to drive away slowly. He slipped, fell to the ground and hit his head.
Shiflett immediately carried his son into their home several doors away, and John was able to recite Bible verses and correctly spell words as his father and mother, Tina, requested. There were no broken bones, no dilated eyes, or any other noticeable problems.
The family, whose members live by faith and homeschool, decided not to call an ambulance. But a neighbor did call Westcare Ambulance, and paramedics responded to the home, asking to see and evaluate the boy.
A family acquaintance said the decision not to let paramedics take the boy to the hospital, “did not go over well.”
“The paramedics were not at all respectful of Tom’s decision, nor did they act in a manner we would expect from professional paramedics,” the acquaintance said.
Police first told the paramedics the decision to hospitalize the boy would be up to the family, and sheriff’s deputies left the family’s home after being assured John was being watched and cared for.
However, the next day, Friday, social services workers appeared at the door and demanded to talk with John “in private,” before seeing him and eventually leaving.
Then, following an afternoon shopping trip to town, the family settled in for the evening, only to be shocked with the knock at the door and the SWAT team attack.
The sheriff said the decision to use SWAT team force was justified because the father was a “self-proclaimed constitutionalist” and had made threats and “comments” over the years.
However, the sheriff declined to provide a single instance of the father’s illegal behavior. “I can’t tell you specifically,” he said.
“He was refusing to provide medical care,” the sheriff said.
However, the sheriff said if his own children were involved in an at-home accident, he would want to be the one to make decisions on their health care, as did Shiflett.
“I guess if that was one of my children, I would make that decision,” the sheriff said.
But he said Shiflett was “rude and confrontational” when the paramedics arrived and entered his home without his permission.
The sheriff also admitted that the injury to the child had been at least 24 hours earlier, because the fall apparently happened Thursday afternoon, and the SWAT attack happened late Friday evening.
Officials with the Home School Legal Defense Association reported they were looking into the case, because of requests from family friends who are members of the organization.
“While people can debate whether or not the father should have brought his son to the ER – it seems like this was not the kind of emergency that warrants this kind of outrageous conduct by government officials,” a spokesman said.
“I don’t know where social services ever got started, or where they got their authority,” Shiflett said. “But I want to know why we have something in this country that violates our rights, that takes a parental right away.”
“Now I’m hunting for lawyers that will take the case … I’m going to sue everybody whose name was on that page right down to the judge,” he said.
Mike Donnelly, a lawyer with the HSLDA, told WND the case had a set of circumstances that could be problematic for authorities.
“In Doe V. Heck, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that parents have a fundamental right to familial relations including a liberty interest in the care, custody and control of their children,” he said.
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