COLORADO CITY, Arizona - Two men arrested Tuesday for trespassing say they’ve been wrongfully accused. Observers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints communities say it’s a power play by church leaders.
Andrew Chatwin and Patrick Pipkin were both released Wednesday morning. Pipkin said they were on property he had leased from the United Effort Plan (UEP) when marshals approached them and told them to leave.
UEP trust employee Isaac Wyler said Pipkin did secure a lease to operate business on the land about two weeks ago. Wyler said as an agent of the trust, he had posted eviction notices six days prior, and all parties had agreed the property would be vacant Tuesday.
The 12 acres of land is the former town zoo, long since empty of animals.
“All of the sudden the local marshals were creating a conflict where there wasn’t one before,” said Wyler of the encounter with the marshals.
The town marshals told Pipkin and Chatwin the property was residential, and subject to different regulations regarding eviction. Chatwin said his brother-in-law was living on the property at the time, but in a tack shed.
“They’re completely ignoring the court orders, the rule of law,” Chatwin said. "They’re bending the outcome to make it look legitimate.”
This isn’t the first time the UEP has enacted evictions on properties here in Short Creek, but Wyler said it is the first time he’s seen it escalate to an arrest. The arrest comes at a time when the marshals and municipal governments face a lawsuit over civil rights abuses. A trial scheduled for January 2016 will argue those cases. Chatwin said their story is just one more example.
“It wasn’t because I was violating the law, it was because they wanted us off the property, trying to maintain control,” Chatwin said.
UEP lawyer Jeff Sheilds told FOX 13 Tuesday they’ll review the details of the incident to see if it does violate previous court orders, and take appropriate legal action.