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(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
John Hollenhorst and Randall Jeppesen reporting
There are new questions about the raid on a polygamist compound in Texas. What did authorities know, when did they know it, and why did they wait so long to go in if hundreds of women and girls were in fear of being abused?
So why did Texas authorities wait so long to carry out the raid? Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran confirmed Thursday that he's been working with an informant for the past four years, but he says there was no evidence of crimes until recently.
"We are aware this group is capable of it, but there again, this is the United States, we're going to respect them, we're not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry, complaint. And I've said this from day one, until we get evidence that there is a problem, that's when we're able to go in and do what we need to do, and that's where we're at today," Sheriff Doran said.
Legal experts say it's doubtful the informant's tips alone would have been enough for a search warrant.
Texas police are beginning to reveal details of what happened inside that polygamist compound over the last week as they searched for children and evidence of abuse. A Texas Ranger and a county sheriff met with reporters Thursday.
Some of the officers who spearheaded the operation are beginning to reveal details. It was clear from comments by the lawmen that they felt they were walking through a cultural minefield in a community vastly different than the rest of America.
Considering the high emotions and tense situation, it's remarkable it didn't turn out worse. When Texas Rangers and state police surrounded the compound and started looking for children, it took days instead of hours. The parents didn't want them found. Capt. Barry Caver, with the Texas Rangers, said, "They were shuffled around houses as we were searching the houses. They were kind of like the eggshell game. And we were trying to, we had issues with that."
Even with all the kids rounded up, officers still can't say whether one of them is the 16-year-old girl whose phone call triggered the raid.
Sheriff Doran said, "You know, when you're dealing with a culture like this, they are taught from very young that they do not answer questions to the point, when you ask them, like a dialogue between you and I. And you know, we may very well have her."
The most dramatic episode sounds like a scene from a movie, a very tense movie. As Texas Rangers moved in to search for the girl in the FLDS temple, 57 of the faithful surrounded it to protect it from invaders. "Several of them would just set down and kneel down and pray, some of them were sobbing. But again we had only one person that attempted any resistance at all," Capt. Caver said.
Rangers brought in a locksmith, but he couldn't get the door open. "So we had to breach it physically, and breach every other door inside physically," Caver said. No one was in the temple, but the searchers found beds on the top floor, lending credence to a story told by an informant that FLDS men routinely had sex in the temple following their spiritual marriages to underage girls. "I have a good informant that's given me great information over the past four years, but I will go into no detail other than that on my informant," said Sheriff David Doran.
A torrent of legal processes is getting under way. Criminal charges are under investigation, although officials revealed no details of what they are looking into. Legal battles will determine the fate of hundreds of children and, perhaps, send some of their parents to prison. But no one can say if it will doom the FLDS, or, like the Alamo in old Texas, provide a rallying cry to keep the faith alive.
The lawmen confirmed Thursday they took cadaver dogs into the compound to search for unmarked graves, but they didn't find any.