Pondering Phelps Picketing Probe

Topeka Capital Journal
January 22, 1996

There are two investigations going on that are trying to determine who, if anyone, told city police not to arrest the Fred Phelps picketing gang. Actually, there are more than two probes, because I am conducting one of my own, and there may be other sleuth like me digging for the truth of this dastardly deed.

I have patterned my investigation after that of O.J .Simpson, who was trying to find the “real” murderer of his former wife and her friend, and also after the annual search for the WIBW Santa Claus.

What I am doing is asking people at random if they told the police to lay off Phelps and his troops.

So far, I haven’t turned up anything, but I figured that still leaves me with the two official inquiries.

All I know for sure so far is that I didn’t do it, and Jim Ramberg says he didn’t, but I have no reason to believe him. He will remain a suspect until the case is cleared up, and for good reason. Anyone who would rig a dog contest would think nothing of throwing sand into the gears of justice.

My investigation really will move to full throttle when the weather warms up a little and I can quiz people at the golf course. The reason I would look for culprits on a golf course is the same reason you’d look for ducks on a pond. Crooks take to golf like ducks take to water.

Meanwhile, the two certified searches have not yet turned up anything startling. One is being run by the city, the other by the Sheriff’s Office, and both seemed to be in a bind. It may well be they both are stuck with the same problem, but for different reasons.

It may be the city investigators don’t want to find out if Mayor Butch Felker and or Police Chief Gerald Beavers issued the hands off order, because if they did, then it’s a city mistake and a huge city problem – one that could have a lot of repercussions.

It also could be that the sheriff’s investigators don’t want to find out neither Felker nor Beavers did it, because that would spoil all their fun. The Sheriff has acted from the start as if he knows who is guilty, or at least hopes it’s who he thinks it is.

The Sheriff’s probe took an unusual turn last week when he said he wanted to meet with Attorney General Carla Stovall, and she said she do it. That was big news, which proves how little is happening with these investigations.

On the other hand, maybe this is the big break in the story. Maybe he wants to ask her if he can charge the whole City Council with issuing the order by innuendo, and if it is against the law to put all of them in the same jail cell.

Or, maybe he wants to ask if a person can be sheriff, mayor and police chief at the same time.

There are a lot of guesses and rumors floating around town as to who the guilty party is, and how the probes will turn out. Personally, I like the theory that Fred Phelps himself gave police the order not to arrest Fred Phelps and his cohorts. It could have happened.

It turns out that before he became a minister he was in vaudeville, starring as “the man of a thousand faces and a thousand voices.” He could impersonate almost anyone in the world, and one of his best impersonations was of a fire and brimstone preacher.

So, when he tired of the stage he decided to actually be a preacher, and he settled in the peaceful city of Topeka. It wasn’t perfect, but it beat having to do a show every night plus matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Besides, he knew he could liven up the place.

When he started serious picketing, it was no problem at all for him to impersonate the mayor when Felker was out of town, and kill any attempt at real anti-picketing laws. Likewise, it was a simple matter for him to impersonate Beavers when the chief was away, and tell the police to keep their cotton-pickin’ hands off that dedicated minister of the Lord, Fred Phelps.

There is another theory that merits consideration. In June 1993, Raymond A. Bloxsom, assistant city attorney and police legal advisor, issued a memo ordering all police officers to handle complaints about picketing by referring them to the city attorney or, in the case of a felony, to the detective division, which would forward them.

The memo was approved by Lee Sipes, the interim police chief who served before Beavers was appointed.

Now the story is that the city investigation, through perfect hindsight, (decided) the memo was interpreted as a hands off order. Police, right or wrong took it to mean that pickets weren’t to be arrested.

The intent of the memo can’t be argued now. Both Bloxsom and Sipes have gone to that roll call in the great beyond they are perfect fall guys, or scapegoats, but the sheriff probably won’t buy it.

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