Another Suicide in the Wake of the Federal Looting Investigation

Steven Shrader, one of the 24 individuals indicted for dealing in looted antiquities killed himself Thursday night. This comes after the suicide of another man in connection with the case. The sad news should increase the criticism by two Utah senators who have asked for a Congressional investigation into the tactics used by Federal Authorities.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

News of a second death in the antiquities crackdown surprised southeastern Utahns . . . . “That’s tragic — if it’s the result of his concerns over his case,” said Phil Mueller, a Blanding resident and Redd family friend. “I don’t know — I don’t know [Shrader]. But to hear the news is certainly very tragic.” Mueller added that he doesn’t accept federal authorities’ explanation that they needed a show of force in the raid because they believed most of the suspects could be armed. “You could walk up to any house in San Juan County,” he said, “and they’d probably have a gun.”of a second death in the antiquities crackdown surprised southeastern Utahns, although those contacted said they had not heard of Shrader.

These suicides are certainly tragic, and though some blame may be placed on the tactics used by federal agents, the simple truth is when you violate federal law, you are running the risk of arrest and prosecution. Digging up Native American remains is not an innocent activity one accidentally does it seems to me. And as more of the search-warrant affidavits are made public, there is more and more allegations of clear wrongdoing on the part of the indicted individuals. Patty Henetz for the SLT summarizes the recent affidavit released by federal court:
On a brisk morning last September, three men — including a federal undercover operative — carried shovels and rakes to an ancient Puebloan mound on public land in San Juan County. As they piled dirt onto a blue plastic tarp, out popped a skull.

The discovery, recorded in real time and detailed in recently released federal court papers, didn’t seem to slow the men much.

Richard Bourret picked up the skull and put it back in the hole, the documents say, then he, Vern Crites and the operative, whom federal authorities call the “Source,” folded the tarp and funneled the dirt back into the hole. There wasn’t quite enough to cover the damage.

Crites lamented a lost opportunity, saying he “wished that fella had still been intact, the skeleton, I mean.”

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4 thoughts on “Another Suicide in the Wake of the Federal Looting Investigation”

  1. I agree; it is tragic that they took their own lives, but I don’t think we can blame the police for capturing criminals.

    The skull anecdote also demonstrates that they were not merely hobby collecting stuff they found on the ground, or even “only” looting domestic or economic sites, so it undermines the looters’ and collectors’ and their sympathisers’ protestations that archaeologists and the authorities are persecuting innocent or harmless people.

  2. Referring to the comment on “tactics of federal agents”, I’d like to point out that Mr Schrader was in fact not one of the 24 (23) arrested by federal agents in the raids of June 10th. He voluntarily turned himself in later, and appears to have had a rather peripheral role in the affair. Any death, any suicide however is profoundly regrettable, whatever he had or had not done.

  3. No, Shrader was one of the 24 indicted on June 10, although the indictment seems to have identified him as a resident of Durango rather than Santa Fe. Since he wasn’t a local resident, however, he apparently wasn’t actually physically detained immediately (the news reports are a little confusing about this). Instead he turned himself in to the FBI office in Santa Fe on June 12 and was taken into custody. He made an initial appearance in federal court in Albuquerque on June 15 and was released pending an appearance in court in Salt Lake on June 19. Obviously, he never made that appearance.

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