Flo Martinez thought that the 39-year-old man on a motorcycle seemed like an “every day kind of guy, [an] all-American boy” when he stopped to browse at the Neighborhood Angel yard sale in Meridian, Idaho. Troy Wheeler certainly didn’t seem like a threat to any of the neighbors who had gathered to participate in the sale, which had been organized to raise money for a young girl suffering from cancer. Everyone in attendance seemed comfortable in each other’s company, enjoying an opportunity to engage in peaceful commerce with a philanthropic purpose.
The prevailing mood changed abruptly when a thugscrum of masked, camouflage-clad figures stormed the gathering, pointing assault weapons and barking orders.
“It scared the heck out of us,” Martinez told Boise’s NBC affiliate, KTVB.
Wheeler was thrown to the ground and handcuffed, along with a woman who simply happened to be standing next to him when the Ada Metro SWAT team arrived. Police spokesmen described Wheeler, who was paroled a year ago on a narcotics conviction, as a suspect in a “major narcotics investigation.” Boise PD spokeswoman Lynn Hightower insisted that the SWAT raid was necessary because Wheeler was “known to be heavily armed and the arrest was high-risk,” summarizes KTVB.
The raiders weren’t pursuing a bank robber, suspected murderer, or terrorist. They were serving an arrest warrant and — perhaps most importantly — carrying out the “Use it or lose it” directive that is part of the Pentagon’s 1033 police militarization program.
The police, who obviously had Wheeler under surveillance, declined to explain how they had tracked Wheeler to the yard sale, or elaborate on their reasons for staging a military raid at a location where innocent people could have been hurt if the subject had actually been “heavily armed.”
Wheeler pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in 2001. His criminal history is otherwise unremarkable – a collection of traffic citations and petty drug-related charges. He was not wanted for a violent felony, but if he had been dangerous using a SWAT team to confront him at a yard sale placed the public at much greater risk than would have resulted from using more conventional means. But this would have deprived Ada Metro SWAT of an opportunity for a telegenic raid that would help to boost its Q score.
Martinez — whose initial reaction, understandably, was alarm — proved to be a quick study once one of her armored overseers told her how to perceive what had just happened.
“Everybody here thought it was great because when they came in and swarmed in like that, he was the target and then there were extras to make sure the people that were here got out of the way,” she told KTVB.
Yes, in Lee Greenwood’s America – even in Idaho, a supposed haven for “anti-government extremists” – a SWAT raid on a yard sale doesn’t provoke a public scandal. This uncritical acceptance of the visible violence committed by state operatives, and official claims regarding the alleged violence of the suspect, is typical of a population entirely unfamiliar with freedom.11:39 am on September 24, 2014 Email William Norman Grigg