On Thursday afternoon, KTVO received a news release from Jefferson County Sheriff Gregg Morton.
Sheriff Morton addresses community questions and concerns regarding the incident at Vedic City, Iowa on Tuesday morning.
I would like to address some of the issues that I have heard from the public in reference to the incident at the Pandit property on Tuesday. One of the biggest concerns that I have heard is why was no one charged with a crime. Imagine yourself in a vehicle, in this case a crew cab ½ ton pickup and being in the middle of a crowd that is irate and focused on you. I had made a choice to try to re direct the Pandits back onto their property and off of 170th Street. There were anywhere from 70 to 80 Pandits in this group. When I realized that they were still coming on strong, I got back into my truck and had the driverâ??s side window down and the truck was unlocked. They surrounded the truck and were hitting the body of the truck, were on the running boards rocking the truck, trying to rip the mirrors off the truck and so on. I was not scared of these actions because they never attempted to enter the truck or try to pull me from the truck. There were pieces of gravel coming into the open driverâ??s window and I finally heard popping noises at the back of my truck. I had no idea that they were throwing rocks at the rear window of my truck. The only indication I had that this was happening was when a rock finally went through the window shattering it. This happened in a time frame of about a minute or so. I could not tell you who did what when during this time as there is such a sensory overload. I decided that my presence was not helping the situation and backed up and away from the crowd. I backed far enough away that as they were picking up asphalt, rocks and whatever else and were throwing these things at my truck, none of it came close. When they were around my vehicle, they were 4-5 thick all the way around the truck. I believe that the training and experience we receive in so many years in law enforcement helped in my decision making and kept things from getting out of control. My main focus was first and foremost for the safety of the public as this crowd was becoming more and more agitated.
I backed up and waited for assistance which came in the form of many law enforcement entities that were listed on an earlier press release including Fairfield Fire. The group stopped at the bottom of the hill and John Revolinski, who is part of the administration that looks after the Pandits went to the group to speak to them. I and about 4 other law enforcement members went to John and John advised that everything was okay. I do not believe that John witnessed the incident where I was surrounded by the Pandits and had damage done to my patrol vehicle. I explained to him what had transpired and also told John that I was giving him 10 minutes to move the Pandits back to their property or I would initiate the plan to move them. He did get them moved prior to the 10 minutes. We staged on 170th Street at the east parking lot of the Pandit property. At 10:00 a.m. I decided that things had calmed down enough for us to secure everyone and we kept a presence throughout the day.
Because I had no way of identifying who damaged my vehicle, I could not charge anyone with the offense. Once the Pandits were back on their property, they mingled with other Pandits and we run into a false arrest situation if we charge the wrong people. This does not mean that the investigation is over or that there will not be charges filed. We need time to sort things out and decide a course of action. Trust me when I say that there were and still are contacts being made with other entities to assist us in this investigation. I have also been in contact with the administration of Vedic City to try to resolve any future confrontations with the Pandits.
The second thing that I hear about is that taxpayer money should not be spent to repair my squad truck. That morning, I had told administrators of both Vedic City and the Pandit project that I would be sending them the bills on the repairs on the truck. Maureen Wynn of Vedic City called me yesterday and spoke highly of the restraint and professionalism that was displayed by law enforcement that day and also that all bills related to the repairs of my vehicle were to be sent to her to be paid. This will be done. I also want everyone to know that if this kind of behavior is displayed again, it will not be tolerated by this office and we will once again restore order and protect the public.
Jefferson County Sheriff