By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"I must be a fool of all fools to believe that," J.D. said that Monday. "I've been double-crossed so many times by the federal bureaucracy." The only thing different this time, he said, was Richards. "He really put on a professional example of how to negotiate," J.D. said. "He, at least, is aware there is a constitutional right to free speech, which is a quantum jump above the Park Service rangers."
Richards negotiated sincerely, J.D. said, and J.D. would "find out tomorrow, bright and early" if the Wupatki administration had. At work, of course. J.D. planned to put in only half a day Tuesday, what with the pretrial discussions that afternoon before a federal magistrate. He faced federal charges of violating regulations on trespassing, tampering and vandalizing; interfering with agency functions; disorderly conduct; and public assemblies and meetings.
J.D. was peeved because no press people had made it out. "I just can't be happy," he said. "I planned for every eventuality-I could not believe in America they'd prevent free access to the press. This shows how naive I am."
During the February Surprise, visitors to Wupatki were banned from the area. (It's possible to tour Wupatki without stopping at the Visitor Center.) An elderly trio, caught on videotape in the early morning walking past J.D.'s old black pickup truck with a "BUSH LIES" signboard in the back, were among the few unofficial witnesses. J.D. was delighted that he made the front page of the local newspaper, but he pointed out that the story never mentioned that he was a National Park Service employee.
"The only steppingstone to the media is bizarre behavior," he said. "If you make a quiet petition, it's totally ignored."
Tuesday, after his half-day at Wupatki, J.D. picked up copies of the charges at the federal magistrate's office. Did the Park Service give him his discharge?
"I still don't know," he said that day. "About 80 percent of them wouldn't even look at me. It was like I was the invisible man." He talked to his immediate supervisor, whose first words were, "What's new?" Then the supervisor departed for a meeting. J.D. expected to know his status by Tuesday night.
When he went to work, he checked in at the little maintenance building. "None of the other employees came in there," he said. "They all hung out around the coffeepot so they wouldn't have to come around me." While they were watching him, every time he went by the flagpole, he sized it up, looking it up and down.
COCONINO COUNTY Sheriff Joe Richards recalled thinking that he'd gotten there too late.
"I'd heard on the radio that the man was threatening suicide," Richards said. "I showed up...and here's this body dangling below the boat. I thought, `Oh no, the man's already hung himself.'" It was the Bush effigy, of course; J.D. was crouching in the raft.
"To establish a rapport with the man is key to any crisis situation," the sheriff said. However, J.D. wasn't talking; he was responding to sheriff's deputies and park rangers only with head shakes or nods. A strong wind buffeted everyone. Wupatki personnel had brought in a scissor-lift work platform; Richards got into the bucket and was lifted off the parking lot.
J.D. didn't answer when Richards called to him, the sheriff said, but when the platform was raised to the level of the raft, J.D. became "hypersensitive" and showed an "escalation of fear." From inside the raft, J.D. picked up the end of a rope attached to his raft hoist, revealing a hangman's noose. He put the noose over his neck, cinched it down and made a gesture as if to go over the side.
The sheriff said he kept up his efforts, and J.D. finally started talking. "He just seemed to spill forth," recalled Richards. "He began to vent his frustrations against the system he was demonstrating against...to vent hatred against what the president was doing with the war in the Gulf."
As J.D. "vented his frustration," Richards said, the danger was being defused. Yet, with the noose on, if J.D. had unintentionally slipped, or if either the quarter-inch nylon rope or the flagpole had snapped, the sheriff said, "we'd have had a dead man on our hands."
Richards told J.D. he was in the wrong place to put his message across. "I will see that you're given a forum" to send your message, Richards said he told J.D.; the sheriff offered to make available a contact person with the news media. But, according to Richards, J.D. said, "Nope, this is where I want to be." J.D. felt compelled that to send his message he had to spend three days up there," Richards said. J.D. began to pull on the rope at his throat, according to Richards, and said, "I've got it on and I can't get it off."
Richards asked J.D. if there was anybody he would talk to, and J.D. finally named someone. When contacted, the woman agreed to come out and listen to J.D. "Eventually," said Richards, "we did get him talked down."