Law enforcement spouses share their stories of being terrorized by faction of #NoDAPL protesters
Three wives of law enforcement officers who worked during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests spoke with us about the terrifying moments they went through.
(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)
Tonight we often pay tribute to the men and women on the front lines that protect and serve us on a daily basis, and tonight we want to celebrate and acknowledge the families of law enforcement that have shown incredible strength and courage as they were terrorized during the Dakota access pipeline situation. There was a story of threats of murder and rape during the pipeline protests.in fact, there is video we're going to kill your grandmothers, grandfathers, daughters, and even you. The protesters also threatened law enforcement and their families online. I’ll show you just a few examples. There are a lot more we can't share with you at 6:30 at night on tv. Another one went on to say this: another one says: as you can see here, with his face, where he works, what he does, all of that exposed. This is scary stuff.
Joining us tonight from our studio in Bismarck are three incredibly courageous women and wives who they themselves and their families were personally terrorized by the DAPL protesters. Carla Arndt, Allison Engelstad, he is a Morton county sheriff deputy, they have six kids now as they combine their families. Shannon Eagon's husband with the North Dakota National Guard, they've got two daughters and a brand new son. to all three of you, from my heart, and I believe from all of north Dakota, just want to say thank you for your tremendous service to our communities, your courage to be the glue to keep your families together, when you don't know if your husband are going to come home or not. I can't imagine being in your shoes. Thank you for who you are and the courage that you have, and thank you for being here tonight. Allison, you have an amazing story where you've got this new family, six kids, your husband calls and says hey, get the kids out of the house, bad things are about to happen. Can you walk us through that story, one, and, two, was that the scariest time you've had during this protest or is there another time that was more frightening for you and your family?
I would say that was definitely would be more of the scary time, him calling that night and just hearing it in his voice, knowing -- he usually keeps a pretty calm demeanor about him, but I could hear him shake, I knew something was up, and to take him seriously.and it was "pack the kids up, get them out, and try not to make them worry" while we were getting to a safer place.
Where did you go?
We drove across town to my parents' house, because we figured that would not be a place anybody would look for us.
Carla, you've got four kids ages 5 to 14, I read you called it social media -- I assume they're social media threats. Talk about the scariest times you've had about these protests.
They shared I guess about day two my husband's photo on social media, it started with someone just making a comment about his smile, and then others turned it into a race issue, and then it turned into attacks on our family, and talking about the things that they would do to my kids and husband because he was racist, which there was nothing that caused that to be the case.it was just a social media ploy to continue to go on and on with tithe same night we talked about going to her parents' house, we stayed up until about 3:00 a.m. watching through the window to make sure everything was okay.
Can you put into words what this has been like for you? We see stuff on the news or on social media, but I don't think your stories have been told well enough. Help us understand what you went through and what it's like to experience this.
I guess it's one of those things that's hard because we need to tell our kids that some people's actions are driven by emotions that they find conviction in, and that we don't have to agree with their stances on things, but we have to make sure that we treat them with respect and try to make them realize we're not always going to agree with things, but we need to make sure that we continue to be the best that we can be for our community.
Talk about the impact on your kids, I think one of the things you shared in your story, my biggest concern is how this has impacted my kids, I have no idea how it's going to impact them down the road. How are you dealing with that, and how are they dealing with it?
I guess mine and done a pretty good job. My husband is good about being open and honest with them, having them stay calm, but understand that emotions can take hold, and a boiling pot of people with strong convictions can make you see the world at a younger age, especially when your parents hold positions like this, and I guess my kids have done a very good job of handling it quite well and trying to stay alert to everything and not just one side of the story, and I guess that's important for our children to know why people might be feeling the way they are, and to make sure they always know law enforcement is always there to protect everyone, and with the best integrity they can have as well as us, and they know other families within my husband's co-workers, you know, their friends in the high schools had to do some classes where they use this social media as a way for them to debate, and I think that was harder for kids who had to go through that. Luckily mine weren't too affected because of their ages.
Shannon, your story is incredible, your strength and courage. You have two daughters. You were pregnant when this started for your husband, he was called to duty in December, and you basically became a single mom. Tell us how you dealt with this, being a pregnant mom and keeping your two daughters safe and sound, physically, emotionally, and mentally as well.
I just kind of told them that dad needed to go to work. He’s done a deployment, so we just told the girls dad had to go be a soldier, and they were good about it, and I’m not a single mom. We’re a team. Had a lot of help. But my husband was tired, trying to do his day job during the day. A little different circumstance, this is not his full-time job, and I was working a full-time job myself with the kids, and, turns out, a very large baby.
[ laughter ]
You do what you have to do.
Thank you. Carla and Allison, either of you can respond to this. Amnesty international usa, this was last week called for north Dakota to investigate human rights violations against indigenous people such as instances in which officers were needlessly outfitted with military equipment. Obviously all three of your husbands were on the front lines. Carla or Allison, do either of you want to address that?
I guess I could, if Allison is okay with that?
A lot of times they used the militarized police as kind of a scare tactic out there to make the world think the law enforcement were bad guys, and as law enforcement wives, we think our husbands deserve to have every bit of equipment and technology it takes to come home to us at night, regardless of the situation, and I think everybody across the world could agree they would want the same for their family members as well.
I want each of you to comment on this. This has been obviously a global story. If you would, because I don't have a chance to visit with your husbands, and I hate to use the example, but my wife and I had those pillow talk times where we had great conversations. What were the scariest moments that your husband was able to share with you that people don't know, or don't understand, and what do you want people to take away from this situation, in North Dakota and across the globe? Allison?
We did have quite a few conversations, just throughout this whole thing.it was seven months of our lives, and that was the first part of our marriage, so just keeping the conversation open was important to me, just not knowing what was going on. He shared a few things with me that had happened down at the protest site, and for the most part, I could handle it okay, but he also didn't want to share a lot of things with me because he wanted to protect me even from just knowing it. We went through just a lot of the Facebook changes and driving around town with, you know, specialized license plates on and being afraid that somebody was going to do something to us or our family while we were out and about, and that was very scary.
Did your husband at any point in time ever fear for his life?
Definitely there. Were times where he would fall asleep, and ten minutes later jerk awake like he had just gotten shot, and that was really scary for me, just knowing that he was having nightmares like, that and just the worry about it all.
Shannon, for you, was there any scary moments that your husband intimately shared with you that you can share with us, and is there any message you want North Dakota and the world to know about this entire situation?
We haven't had pillow talk since he went on, he's been working at nights, we have not slept in the same bed because when he's sleeping, the baby's awake, so I’m kind of aware of what was going on before he was called up, and so I took precautions prior to his being -- being activated to active duty, but I definitely was more cognitive of my surroundings. You hear people being followed from work, and with my kids in the vehicle, it's just -- that's just not cool. I think my biggest thing is that law enforcement, especially because it's really started with him -- he's only been out there since January -- law enforcement and military, they're out there to protect us, and it made us very sad to see and to hear that people would believe that law enforcement is treating people that way. I don't -- I’ve never seen any of our law enforcement do a tenth of the things they were being accused of. That was kind of hard to read and whatnot. But law enforcement was there to protect both sides.it was not to protect one thing or another; they were out there to keep the peace and uphold the letter of the law, and that's it.
Yeah, it really is a miracle that no one was killed in this entire situation. Carla, I’m going to give you the last word. Any stories you want to share with us, where your husband feared for his life, and what do you want people to take away from this situation?
I don't know that he feared for his life. He feared for everyone on both sides. He kept repeating I’m surprised nobody was been shot or hurt or killed, because you do have a boiling point of emotions, and from the standpoint of the law enforcement, you're worried about the people on the other side who don't always hold the same convictions of what they're there to stand for, and you can see they were divide amongst what they were standing for, too. The biggest thing, they said that law enforcement is there to protect and always will be, and we as law enforcement families are here for the community, and, you know, not just our husbands but our spouses and children are all hoping to heal our community, and we don't want another community to go through it. We hope we can tell the story so it saves others from having it and heal our communities again.
All three of you, thank you, and thank your husbands for their outstanding service, and for you guys being the glue that kept the family together. We appreciate your time. Keep us abreast of your stories. We hope everything is going to be a-ok.
We appreciate them and everything their families have done for us.