T.F. Mayor Addresses Community’s Reaction to Assault: ‘This is Not Us’
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – The first 40 minutes of the Twin Falls City Council meeting on Monday evening was devoted to public comment.
Several citizens addressed the council about the recent sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl, an incident that has drawn national attention to Twin Falls.
Before the meeting opened for comment, Mayor Shawn Barigar addressed the audience, asking for tolerance and respect as residents addressed their concerns and opinions.
Most everyone heeded his advice, but citizen Terry Edwards called the council members “bumps on a log” who didn’t inform the community quick enough or thorough enough about what had happened on June 2 – the day the sexual assault had occurred.
Barigar reminded him to be respectful in his comments. Edwards ignored the request and repeated his previous insult.
Julie Ruf, who claims to know personally the family of the girl who was assaulted, asked the council where the justice is for the young girl, who now is afraid to come out of her house.
“What kind or people would we be if we were not emotional about the rape of a young child?” she asked.
Not only is Ruf praying for the victim and her family, she said, but for the council members – some who have received threats. She also praised Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins for remaining calm during a former council meeting in which citizens spoke.
“We take any threat seriously,” city spokesman Joshua Palmer told News Radio 1310 in a separate interview, noting the threats are being investigated and security was heightened at the meeting.
Barigar told audience members at the beginning of the meeting that justice will be served through “due process.” He urged citizens to respect that process and not let emotion cloud reason. He reminded audience members that many of the allegations about the assault as shared online and in social media is incorrect – such as allegations of rape, which it technically wasn't classified as by law enforcement and County Prosecutor Grant Loebs.
Making harsh judgments based on erroneous reports “paints a picture that is not us,” Barigar said. “This is not us as a community.” He urged citizens to look to commonalities they have with the council and not differences.
“At the heart of the matter is a 5-year-old victim,” he said, noting that authorities are handling the case in the order of “due process.”
The council and police department, and even Loebs, who attended the Monday meeting, cannot comment much about the case because it has been sealed by a judge’s order.
A couple of citizens said they appreciated the way authorities were handling the case, especially since it involves juveniles.
Twin Falls resident Scott McKinney said he understands there’s a process and intent to protect the young victim and even the young suspects, saying he believes a lot of heated discussions about the case is because the young perpetrators are Muslim.
“They are juveniles,” he said. “They are not adults. … I think a lot of this [controversy] is based on fear. They think they have God and have the truth. … But aren’t we commanded to always forgive? Aren’t Muslims also our brothers and sisters?”
He said the incident was a crime – no matter who did it – and justice should be served for that reason and no other.
Others who spoke said they loved their community but hated the crime, that’s why they are upset.
The mayor called for the community to have faith and patience in the process.
John Haight, who said he once worked professionally with juveniles, told the council that he respects the members for handling the case with proper protocol, despite what the alleged accusations are on the Internet.
When no one else came forward to speak, and after 40 minutes of public comment, Barigar thanked those who participated before the council moved on to approve the consent calendar.
In other business, the city's grant writer Mandi Thompson reviewed a recent citizens' survey, noting that a high number of people in the community believe that local law enforcement is doing a good job. Additional information, including statistics about the survey, will be posted later.