Big time in small city
Local youth group encounters urban reality
"They saw a man in a white T-shirt and jeans with the rifle in
his hands, and then somebody said theyve made an arrest."
Andrea Baker, chaperone
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
A group of middle-school children from the Wood River Valley emerged
shaken but wiser when an undercover bust occurred in their vicinity while they were
It started on Saturday afternoon when the 20 non-denominational Youth
Group kids were working at the Boise Community Café, a soup kitchen near River and 13th
streets in downtown Boise.
After serving lunch, adult chaperone and group leader Andrea Baker said,
most of the youths were taking a break outdoors while a few began helping with clean-up
One of the diners looked out the window and reported that there was a man
with a gun down the street. After momentarily doubting the sanity of the homeless woman,
two of the adult chaperones, Nancy Bates and Lynn Knudson, looked out the window and
confirmed the presence of a man with what seemed to be a shotgun.
They suggested to Baker that the kids be hustled inside and put safely in
the bathroom until they could assess the situation.
While they were inside the windowless restroom, the kids had no idea what
was going on.
"Several of the girls were upset," Baker said. "Their
imagination ran wild. We didnt know what was going on."
She said the children were unaware until later that the men with the guns
were not inside the building.
Knudson and Bates watched the action develop from a window, apparently
unconcerned about their own safety.
"They saw a man in a white T-shirt and jeans with the rifle in his
hands, and then somebody said theyve made an arrest," Baker said.
No shots were fired. The man turned out to be an undercover police
When the children emerged from their hiding place, several were crying and
shaking, Baker related.
The manager of the soup kitchen, who knew the arrested man and had
recently paid his electric bill for him, explained to them what he thought the situation
Apparently, the police, whose station was down the block, had had the
subject under surveillance for sometime regarding threats of a political nature.
It turned out that he had been one of those to whom the St. Thomas youth
group had served lunch earlier that day. Baker said he had eaten lentil soup and hot dogs.
"For a lot of these kids--theyre sheltered--theyve never
seen police or anybody with a weapon, except for the Ketchum Shoot-out," Baker said.
"Serendipitously, the experience led to a lengthy discussion about
what had happened and why the adults had reacted as they did, and about the students
feelings about the incident."
They returned to St. Michaels Cathedral, where they were spending
the night, and had a debriefing for over an hour, Baker said.
"It was very, very cool."
A couple of the kids, who had lived in other places--Memphis, L.A.--shared
stories about situations in which shots had been fired in neighborhoods, or cars broken
into. That was one of the reasons their families moved to the Wood River Valley, Baker
"Somehow that segued into an open discussion on drug and alcohol
abuse with teenagers," Baker said.
One of the issues that was raised, Knudson said, was the assumption,
wrongly made, that the homeless people were involved in the incident, when in fact, they
were looking out for the kids. Knudson said also that a 9-year-old boy came in for lunch
and that the Wood River Valley kids were surprised and saddened by this.
Despite the moments of fear, the children returned home unscathed but
wiser about the realities of life that include not only men with guns, but the plight of
homeless people and the need for keeping an open mind.