by Travis Mateer
It’s weird. I’m writing this post on May 10th, and the last post on Facebook from the LifeGuard Group was posted on April 28th. This time of year, with school ending, and tourism ramping up for the summer season, a group that educates kids about the red flags of human trafficking, while supposedly helping save the victims, should be VERY active right now. But they’re not. WHY?
I mentioned the LifeGuard Group in this post about the disappearance and death of Joey Thompson because I made a call to the LifeGuard Group and Tami Hochhalter–wife of LifeGuard Group founder and Missoula County Sheriff Chaplain, Lowell Hochhalter–answered and told me she knew the sister of Joey Thompson, but they didn’t help search for him because he wasn’t a minor (Joey was 18), or he wasn’t a victim of trafficking, or something like that.
Since this response was very unsatisfactory for me, I decided to drop in yesterday to the LifeGuard Group Office, which is located on the 4th floor of the Florence building in downtown Missoula. I knocked on the door and was told by a voice inside to open it, so I did, and met Carson, Lowell Hochhalter’s son.
I explained I was looking into the death of Joey Thompson, but was told I needed to call and set up an interview first to get any answers about WHY this group didn’t bother to lift an organizational finger for someone KNOWN to their family. When the 23 year old Jermain Charlo went missing, this group was ALL OVER local media getting attention. Curious.
Since I’m not a huge fan of people who operate with a warped sense of the Christian savior complex, I decided to return to campus where I had been on May 5th (unintentionally, I should add) to catch the MMIW event, which had to be moved inside due to weather.
After the presenters did their thing I went to speak with one of them and somehow ended up talking to a supporter and volunteer with the LifeGuard Group who didn’t appreciate my depiction of this organization’s track record.
My follow up to campus was to see if Kathryn Shanley was still around, but I was told she is now retired (side note: her husband, David Moore, was one of my favorite professors when I was a student). I asked who I could talk with about problematic white Christian allies and was told to inquire with Project Beacon, so I called and left a message.
One of the ironies in the shared effort to BRING AWARENESS to things that are happening with marginalized populations in Montana is how one member of a marginalized group is absorbing A LOT of the national media oxygen, and that resource (if you can call it that) is NOT an inexhaustible.
Cue the New Yorker now joining the fray, yet UNABLE to include the fact that at least one object–a glove–was thrown by protestors from the gallery. Instead we get this:
On Monday, April 24th, a group of supporters from Missoula streamed into the House gallery. For two hours, the session proceeded with its normal staid rituals: motions were raised, amendments approved, a bill related to county-road access clarified. Speaker Regier periodically glanced up to the gallery, where the protesters sat quietly. Then the debate turned to a bill over parental rights in schools, and Zephyr pressed her button to talk. Regier did not recognize her, and the people in the gallery began to chant, “Let her speak!” Zephyr held the microphone above her head. Regier requested that the sergeant at arms clear the gallery, and the crowd became increasingly agitated. Law-enforcement officers in riot gear entered and arrested seven people. Two days later, Vinton brought a measure to have Zephyr removed from the floor for violating the “safety, dignity, integrity and decorum of the House of Representatives.” The motion passed along party lines.
As I noted in yesterday’s post, ignoring reality isn’t going to stop the crazy from going crazy, and wouldn’t you know it the guy I’ve been telling EVERYONE about just showed city police a good version of that crazy. Say hello for the mugshot camera, Mr. Spence!
It’s really too bad that the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (where the founder of the LifeGuard Group works as a chaplain) failed to appropriately handle Todd Spence last September. Now one of the charges Spence is facing is “Threats in Official And Political Matters”, a felony. Huh?
I’ll be writing more about Spence and another man recently in and out of jail in another post. For now, let’s wrap this up with the customary pitch for Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), which got some MUCH APPRECIATED donations recently (thank you!), and the button at my about page, where donations can also be made.
Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for more to come, possibly later today.