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The recollection is at critical odds with the government's case. Prosecutor Mathew charged that Jerry Span initiated the attack, punched the marshal and went for his gun because Jerry was deluded into thinking the officers were part of the city's conspiracy to evict them from the land.

Obviously if Jerry Span knew the marshals were looking for a fugitive, a fugitive who had the same name as his brother but who was almost thirty years older, he would not have assumed the marshals were evicting them.

"I asked him could he leave the information and if I see him around, I could, let me know who to notify and I'll notify him," said Jerry Span. "And all I know, they started yelling and screaming at Darlene to get Mickey here right now, right this minute. And points right to a spot on the ground. `You get them right here, right now!' Darlene said, `I told you, he's not here, he's at a truck sale.' And they said she was lying, they was threatening her, all kinds of threats, and they was acting just like maniacs.

"So then I asked them to leave and I told them, `We helped you all we could, we can't help you no more, I'm going to have to go back to my customers and help them.' And I turned my back and walked away.

"All of a sudden then I was bashed in the back of the neck, kicked to the back and knocked to the ground, and I had no idea what hit me and I didn't know what knocked me to the ground, but it felt like a ton of bricks. It was real painful, it was real painful. And he said, `Don't turn your back on me, you mother fucker.'"

As Grotewold wrestled Jerry Span over the hood of a car, Darlene said, she was grabbed by her hair and slammed into a fence by Dains, causing the two of them to topple to the ground.

The Span family maintains that the marshals ordered them to stop taking photos and then attempted to grab all of the film.

At first the mother, Virginia, used a Polaroid but was in such a state that she was unaware the photos were pouring out of the bottom of the camera and onto the ground. (The day before the incident she'd been rushed to St. Joseph's emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure, 230/104, where she remained for six hours. At the time of the brawl she was heavily medicated.)

Dains picked up the Polaroid snapshots while dragging Darlene along. Then, when the police arrived, Pete Span claims Marshal Dains grabbed the roll of film from his shirt pocket that had captured the initial confrontations. With the heel of his boot, Dains allegedly ground the canister into the dirt, breaking it open and ruining the negatives.

When Dains attempted to seize Pete's camera with the partially used roll of film, the former track star ran from the scene.

With both Darlene and Jerry in separate Phoenix squad cars and Pete in full retreat, Marshals Grotewold and Dain together with Officer Jenkins approached Virginia.

"The tall marshal was swinging her arm wildly to get the camera off which she had tied to her wrist," said Darlene. "She was thrown to the ground at one point and I just started screaming, `Stop! Stop! My mom just came from the hospital. You have to stop him. It will kill her. She was just in the emergency room.'"

Watching his mother from the back of the squad car, Jerry Span became enraged and kicked a dent in the screening. Later, he would be charged with destruction of police property.

All of the Spans claim the marshals made repeated efforts to seize and destroy the photos of the assault. The family took the pictures to document the outrageous behavior of the officers; ironically, the prints that survived helped convict Darlene and Jerry.

TWO UNITED STATES marshals attempted to pick up an armed and dangerous fugitive and by the end of the day Virginia, Jerry, and Darlene Span were in jail. The fugitive was still at large. Later, Span sibling Mickey Michael, accompanied by an attorney, went to the marshals and produced identification proving that he was not the escapee Dains and Grotewold sought.

The only question that lingered, a question that would take two years to make its way through the courts, was who assaulted whom?

Cynics know that blood is thicker than water, that a family like the Spans was raised to look out for its own. And it's not unheard of for partners in law enforcement to cover for each other. So whom do you believe? How do you decide?

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey