Roby, Illinois, or "Roby Ridge?"
Are You Next?
by Jefferson Adams
On September 22, 1997, sheriffís deputies from Christian County, Illinois, acting
on a court order obtained by her relatives, attempted to serve commitment papers on
Shirley Allen, 51, a widow who lives along the Sangamon River outside the village
of Roby, 15 miles east of Springfield.
The deputies were met at the door by Allen, who was carrying a shotgun and who
refused to go with them. Thus began the siege at "Roby Ridge," as some have called
it, which at the time of this writing is now into its fifth week.
When Allen refused to go with them, deputies kicked her door off its hinges and then
fired tear gas canisters into the home to force her out.
She eventually emerged, dressed in camouflaged hunting pants with a soaked towel
around her head and Vaseline applied to her face, to protect her from the burning
effects of the CS tear gas.
When numerous attempts to coax her out of the house failed, the deputies retreated
and called in state police, who set up a command post a short distance from the
womanís house and dispatched a tactical unit to surround the residence, apparently
equipped with automatic weapons.
Shotgun blast to the chest
On September 26, Allen walked out the back door of her home and began yelling at
two state police negotiators who had been attempting to coax her out of her farm
house. Two hidden state police officers then fired metal "non-lethal beanbag rounds"
from a 12-gauge shotgun at her, hitting her at least 3 times in the chest. But Allen
wasnít knocked down, as sheíd had the forethought to be wearing several layers of
Head cop gives press conference
During a Saturday, October 27th news conference in Springfield, Illinois, State
Police Director Terry Gainer, in an attempt to justify his assault squadís
aggressive behavior, made several disjointed statements including: "Weíre here to
help," "We are looking out for her best interests" and "Itís our hope that she
(Allen) will grow to understand that we ... are looking out for her..." (All three
quotes taken from the September 27 edition of the State Journal-Register,
the dominant newspaper of record in Springfield, Illinois).
Staying consistent with his continually contradictory statements, Gainer claimed it was
widow Allen who first fired at police. Puzzled journalists questioned how that could
be since all official prior statements from Gainer and the Illinois State Police
attested to the fact that Allen had never fired on any of the police prior to Friday.
In response to numerous phone calls to his office from all over the country and the
comments of concerned citizens who have voiced their disapproval of the Illinois State
Policeís overbearing tactics during the Allen siege, Gainer stated publicly, "We
ought to put them in a box and let them live in their merry little world."
Allen lives on a 47-acre farm, with two producing oil wells. She apparently has quite
a bit of money in the bank, including $120,000 left to her by her deceased husband,
plus the interest accrued in the several years since his death. One canít help but
wonder if the out-of-state relatives who asked an Illinois judge for the "psychiatric
evaluation" court order might have something in mind besides Allenís well being.
Barry Manilow music?
For several days after the tear gas and "bean bag bullets" failed to cause Allen
to surrender, the Illinois State Police kept up a round-the-clock mental assault
on Allenís farm house, including loud Barry Manilow music blared at high volume at
all hours and floodlights beaming bright light through her windows at night. Her
electricity, telephone and water were shut off, and are still off, a month later,
at the time of this writing.
Thomas R. Wayne, a media monitor with Americans for Responsible Media (ARM) of
Arlington Heights, Illinois arrived in Springfield October 1 to evaluate whether or
not 1st Amendment rights are being thwarted by government officials at the scene of
the siege. In explaining the purpose of the visit to Roby, Wayne stated, "Weíre going
to ask a simple question: Where in the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights or
any other lawful document does it give the government the authority to hold back all
news media and public citizens a half mile away from the home of a woman? It is our
understanding that this whole thing precipitated last Labor Day when Shirley Allen
exercised her right not to allow certain family members in her home for a visit.
All I can say is if a simple family squabble can lead to a court order to have a
forced psychiatric evaluation then probably over half this country is in trouble."
Alternative media alerts America
Wayne stated in his ARM news release dispatched to local and national news media,
"Government officials claim that this 51-year-old woman Shirley Allen may be a danger
to the community or to herself and that she needs to be protected.
"We ask protected from whom? Itís obvious this remarkable widow has a strong will
to live. Police have already filled her home with tear gas, shot her in the chest
with bagged metal projectiles, and tormented her with loud music and bullhorns night
and day. How much more will it take for them to figure out that this widow is not a
danger to herself and that the real danger is from state agencies that have already
decided that not taking Prozac for a year makes a person unstable."
Wayneís statement in the news release continued: "This could set a precedent that
can be used against anybody--the crime of wanting to be left alone. Her neighbors who
know her best say Mrs. Allen is neither crazy nor a danger to anyone. She has no
criminal record or assaults or any other anti-social behavior other than she wants
to be left alone on her property as guaranteed by the Constitution. There also is
the question of the formidable assets owned by Mrs. Allen, including the mortgage
free 47 acres of land and an oil well on her property."
Citizens rally to support Allen
On October 14, a rally was held in nearby Taylorville to show support for Shirley
Allen. Approximately 300 people attended the rally, not counting police snipers that
were seen on some of the townís rooftops. The following is a note from a woman who
attended the rally:
"As I was saying before, I took advantage of socializing with gathered citizens. I
spoke with one group of about eight women you were residents of that area. A couple
of them told me that Shirley Annís brother and mother live in Scottville, Illinois.
They said that about a week before the court order was issued for Shirley Annís
mental evaluation this "so called" brother had beaten Shirley Ann up at her home.
He was later arrested for this act of violence upon his sister. He has since been
fired from his position as a bus driver. They also told me that Shirley Ann did have
power of attorney for her motherís affairs (Doesnít it seem odd that the family would
have entrusted this so called mental case to be in charge of their motherís affairs?)
And, that Shirley Ann had financed a new home for her mother in Scottville.
"Another woman from that area also came over to me later to tell me about the assault
on Shirley Ann by her brother in Scottville, and of his subsequent arrest. She thought
he might have been arrested just within the past week or so. All of the women said
this information should be easy enough to verify, the last woman told me she had read
of his arrest in a local paper."
What was that I was saying about relatives and possible financial motives for a
commitment? Add some personal motives to the mix and things start to get a lot
clearer, donít they?
Neighbors come through
A couple who live near Allen and do not want to be identified paid the second
installment on Allenís property taxes recently, which added up to $524.67 plus a
late fee for $7.87.
"I saw it printed in the little Edinburg paper last week," the woman said. "I donít
want her to lose her home"at least in this manner. She canít get...out to do anything."
The woman said she and her husband donít directly know Allen, but that her husband and
son both had worked on her house in the past.
Bill Babich of Taylorville said he and Dave Hoover of Springfield opened an account
October 11 at First Trust and Savings Bank in Taylorville, designed to help Allen
hire a lawyer and pay other fees.
"I think Shirley deserves and really needs someone thatís going to fight for her,
especially with her property involved and the conflicting stories about whether or
not her family is after it," Babich said.
Woman arrested for helping
Another woman was arrested and jailed when she ran the roadblock on the road
leading to Allenís home in an attempt to take her a bag of groceries.
John Riley, who lives about a quarter-mile from Allen and has visited with her in
recent months, described Allen as intelligent, knowledgeable about the outdoors,
and suspicious of the motives of her family.
So far, at the time of this writing, the siege on an innocent and obviously quite
sane and able to care for herself widow has cost the state of Illinois over
$500,000.00. Letís hope that by the time itís over it wonít also cost Shirley
Allen her life.
Note: Shirley Ann Allen was apprehended when she stepped out onto her porch on
October 30, 1997. Police officers fired several large rubber bullets at her from
a grenade launcher, striking her several times. Apparently not seriously injured,
Allen was taken to St. Johns Hospital in Springfield, Illinois for her "evaluation."
© 1997 The Idaho Observer