Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shootout at Miracle Valley

I went to a presentation today put on by the author of the book, Shootout at Miracle Valley and several of the deputies who were present during the events described in the book.

Are you at all familiar with this? In Miracle Valley, a small town southeast of Sierra Vista, the Rev. A.A. Allen had set up a Church/Bible College/Healing Center in the 1950's. A.A. Allen was one of the pioneer televangelists of the Pentecostal Healing/Prosperity movement.

By 1982, the Church facilities had been taken over by Pastor Francis Thomas and the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church. they had become involved in increasing confrontations with the police, leading to church members driving to Sierra Vista to attempt to free a fellow Church member who had been arrested. The attempt came to an abrupt end on the highway to Sierra Vista when one of the three bombs church members brought with them exploded, killing one of them.

On October 23rd of 1982, Cochise County Deputies went with about 35 of them to serve some warrants in Miracle Valley. they were set upon by 200 or more church members who came at them with bottles, bricks, sticks, rakes and even shooting at them from distant houses.

The confrontation resulted in a deputy being shot a few times with a shotgun, one deputy succumbing later to injuries sustained from a severe beating and numerous deputies suffering broken knuckles, bruises, lacerations and the like sustained as they tried to defend themselves from the assaults.

In the picture above, Deputy Ray Thatcher was herded by about 5 women with makeshift weapons into a certain part of the field where this all happened. Once he was there, the women retreated for the approach of a rifle wielding man. The man, who turned out to be Pastor Thomas' son, was shot by Thatcher when he raised it towards him. Another man repeated the gesture, picking up the same rifle. The confrontation came to an end when Thatcher had to shoot him too.

The author highlighted the remarkable restraint of the deputies in the face of national media attention leading up to this event and a severe distortion of the facts afterward. I am pretty certain that bottle/brick/stick/shotgun/rifle wielding assailants facing police today might just be shot down en masse. I know that I would not hesitate too much to fire on attackers if I was as beleaguered as these fellows were.

The panel also described how the governor's office tipped of church members that police were coming to arrest some of them on warrants. I suppose it was an attempt to frighten them and diffuse the situation, but it led to the people having weapons and a plan ready to confront officers when they arrived.

The panels members had quite a bit more to say about the whole ordeal that I wont be able to share now, but here are some places to get a few bits:

Here is a blog with a collection of media coverage from the shootout.

Here is the site of someone who wants to get a hold of Miracle Valley and Re-open the Church and Ministries.


marvin in mesa said...

I just read in New Times there will be another signing Sat June 27th at 2PM in Tempe at the Changing Hands Bookstore. Sounds like it almost turned in to a Waco incident.

Anonymous said...

There is a major error in the writing of this blog which must be corrected. Please note that Mrs. Thomas DID NOT occupy Allen's church facilities. The fact of the matter, Mrs. Thomas, nor anyone else associated with her group, ever controlled, possessed or occupied any of the A A Allen Revivals Inc property, all of which is located on the south side of Hwy 92. What Mrs. Thomas did occupy was property on the north side of Hwy 92, which was a small housing community, created by the Independent Development Co and owned by various people who resided on the property. It was not associated in any way with Allen's church facilities. Mrs. Thomas obtained the Valley View Restaurant and converted it into her church facilities. So why does the writer state that Mrs. Thomas occupied A A Allen's church facilities? No doubt to create sensationalism and create more of an interest in their blog? Let's get the facts correct before we start misinforming others.