October 23, 2020: Christ Miracle Healing Shootout
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Cheese County deputies and members of a tight knit religious community. Let's go back to the morning of October twenty third nineteen, eighty, two to the small town of Miracle Valley near the southern border in Arizona. The weather was mild, but tensions were at a boiling point officers from the local sheriff's department stood tensely outside of the large compound of the Christ Miracle Healing, center and Church. The day before on. October twenty second, the officers attempted to serve arrest warrants on unpaid traffic fines to members of the group. But as they tried to enter the building about two dozen members of the group refused to let them inside. They claimed neither of the men in question had any traffic tickets and refused to negotiate. Now, authorities were unsure of how to proceed, but they feared escalating the situation animosity between the police and the church had been building for years. The Christ Miracle Healing Center in Church boasted around three hundred members totaling nearly two thirds of Miracle Valley's population. Since arriving in nineteen seventy, nine from Chicago members of the all black church clashed with the nearly all white community of Miracle Valley. The congregation wanted to preach their fundamentalist Christian teachings in peace. But outsiders derided them as a cult because of their strict beliefs and distrust of modern medicine. Then, in nineteen eighty tensions increased when the group began an armed security patrol in the community to ward off theft and vandalism. The action sparked fear in many Miracle Valley residents and made even some local authorities nervous some worried become too militant and non-members felt intimidated by the patrols presence. Then on April Twentieth Nineteen, eighty, two, six months before the standoff twenty or so members of Church got into a confrontation at the local high school after a church member was arrested for assaulting a female bystander the before the on campus scuffles soon, morphed into a massive brawl when authorities arrived to break up the fighting members of the Church carjacked nearby witnesses and fled into the blazing Arizona Desert. Authorities gave chase but were unable to apprehend the suspects before they made it back to the compound. The only way the men were finally caught was through the intervention of the state's governor Bruce Babbitt who personally reached out to Thomas for cooperation. Eventually, three members of the church were given prison sentences. By. That point trust between the community and the group had all but vanished. So when authorities tried to enter the compound on the morning of October twenty, third nineteen, eighty two to attempt to serve the arrest warrants a second time they were at their wit's end deputies nervously discussed the best course of action outside the compound thirty five officers from several different agencies and over a dozen cars waited on standby. Authorities were intent on avoiding any further escalation? The agencies reached a consensus to let one squad car just before dawn to apprehend the suspects in question they hoped that by that point, tensions might have deflated enough for a safe environment. According to authorities the morning of October twenty third, a single patrol car slowly entered the compound to deputies exited the vehicle and proceeded to go door to door looking for their suspects. As they walked to their next address, a car rolled up and angry church members filed out. Each of them carried improvised weapons, including Tire Irons, clubs, and wrenches. The group immediately surrounded the officer and berated them. It only took a few moments for things to spin out of control authorities claimed the members jeered at the officers and became aggressive even a few swings at them when they ran back to their squad car as the officers retreated, they radioed in for backup. Police. Warmed the compound while over a hundred members of the church came out of their houses to join in the conflict there was pushing and shoving punches were thrown and people were knocked to the ground in the commotion bystanders. saw. William Thomas Junior Pastor Francis Thomas son unload several long barrelled weapons from a nearby car moments. Later, the bullets started lighting. Up next members fall and the aftermath of the shootout. Listeners who doesn't love a good go story rattling chains mysteriously moving objects unfinished business I am ready for all things spooky and so is podcast network starting October. 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It takes time to research different true crime for each day of the year a lot of time. So when it comes time to turn off my brain and just relax, I go to best fiends the casual mobile puzzle game with over one hundred, million downloads and counting best is challenging match three game that has literally millions of five star reviews on the apple APP store and Google play I used to play here and they're like between. Recording sessions or while waiting in line at the store. But now I find myself playing more often because I enjoy it. So much I think what I like most about best fiends is that it's challenging without being so difficult that it's frustrating with over five thousand best fiends puzzles to solve. It looks like all never be bored again, download best fiends free today on the apple APP store or Google play. That's friends without the our best fiends. Now back to the story. On October twenty, third nineteen, eighty, two members of a local fundamentalist church in miracle. Valley Arizona engaged in a shootout with local authorities. Bystanders saw Pastor, Thomas's son William Thomas Junior reach into his car and pull out several rifles moments later gunfire erupted at the sound of the gunshots many of the church members screamed and fled the scene. But the fight was far from over it appeared that Thomas ran into the fray with one of the weapons and approached forty-five-year-old Sheriff's Deputy Race Thatcher according to the deputy Thomas pointed his weapon in their direction in that split second bachelor fired four rounds each striking Thomas. Moments later Thomas was dead on the ground in the Fray Thatcher said another church member fifty, two year old gus tate went to pick up the weapon fearing for his life Thatcher fired and additional four at tate. died instantly. People on both sides panicked moments after the to church members were killed authorities retreated. By the time the attack was over dozens of people were injured including seven deputies. Deputy Jeffrey Carl Brown suffered a bruised after being struck by Five Foot Long Pipe William Thomas Junior, and gust tate lay dead in the dirt. Hundreds of bullet casings littered the ground those left behind screamed while others cried most believed that the worst was over but to keep everyone safe authorities evacuated the remaining one, hundred fifty people living in Tau. In the next few tense hours authorities worried about additional violence but it never came after the dust cleared and the situation was deemed safe authorities launched an investigation into what happened. They called in the FBI to ensure an unbiased report. In the aftermath over ten members of the church were arrested and charged with a slew of offenses. There were conflicting reports about the events of the conflict authorities including deputy. Thatcher, stuck with their story of events. However, members of the church including pastor Thomas said things happened differently. Thomas claimed her son was shot in the back and that her followers were unarmed during the conflict. The members who face charges stemming from the shootout had their cases dismissed each one requested a public defender Coaches County stated they were unable to provide the defendants with lawyers citing a lack of funds. The judge had the option to dismiss the case with or without prejudice if they simply dismissed the case, the defendants could be retried down the line. However, the judge felt the prosecution's evidence was shaky at best and dropped the charges with prejudice. The entire ordeal was a black eye on the community most just wanted to move forward with their lives when it was all over the tensions that had been building over the years finally exploded and now everyone involved was forced to deal with the aftermath after all to church members had been killed in nineteen eighty-three, pastor Thomas and the group packed up and went back to Chicago Thomas later died in nineteen, ninety five. In two, thousand, twelve, thirty years after the shootout Pentecostal missionaries purchase the old church land in Miracle Valley they claimed Ghalib. Called on them to heal the land but not all scars fade. WHO Thanks for listening today and true crime. I'm Vanessa Richardson today and true crime is a spotify original from podcast. You can find more episodes of today in true crime and all other originals from last for free on spotify will be back with a brand new episode tomorrow in True Crime. Today in true crime was created by Max. Cutler. Hot original from PODCAST, it is executive produced by Max Cutler sound designed by John Boorda with production assistance by Ron Shapiro Carleen Madden and Josh Kern. This episode of today and true crime was written by Robert Tyler, Walker with writing assistance by Tara Wells I'm Vanessa Richardson. Remember to join Alistair murden. Every Thursday, for the all new series haunted places, ghost stories don't miss the most chilling spirits ever imagined by authors from around the world follow haunted places, ghost stories free on spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.