Monday, May 27, 2024

Kudus in order for everyone who responded to alleged kidnapping

Mineral Independent | May 15, 2024 12:00 AM

I would like to start by saying this is not a traditional news story, but more of a first-hand experience garnered from multiple perspectives of an alleged kidnapping incident that was resolved in St. Regis last week.

First off, I am a wife of a teacher. I am also a mother of a preschool boy who happens to play with his classmates each day in a small side yard near the St. Regis School’s high school entrance. This is where the suspects’ vehicle suddenly parked across the street trying to hide. Likewise, I am a writer, and reporter, too. Plus, I am close friends with several of the teachers and staff at the school, as well as the moms of my son’s classmates.

Here are black-and-white details of what happened on Wednesday, May 8. The Mineral County Sheriff's Office responded to a possible armed kidnapping from the Superior area. Local Law enforcement had reason to believe that the victim had been brought down to St. Regis. Deputies, with assistance from Montana Highway Patrol, tracked the suspect vehicle to a parking area alongside St. Regis School on Tiger Street.

After the vehicle parked near the school, the school was immediately notified and placed on lockdown. Officers arrested the suspect without incident, and the victim was rescued without injury. The investigation into the matter is ongoing.

What’s missing from this concise report are some overlooked heroic actions, the quick thinking, and the decision-making that took place inside and outside the school that helped create such a positive outcome. 

Let me paint this picture for you.

Around 1:15 p.m. is usually when our rowdy little group of pre-K boys and girls get the memo that it is time to go home. They have a tradition of playing together outside each day after their release. But on Wednesday it was about 1:10 p.m. when a grey Toyota pickup with Washington plates drove up fast and parked unexpectedly across the road from where four boys were still playing. I recalled looking over at Mineral County Sheriff Ryan Funke’s wife, Danica, and both of us said to each other, “That was weird.” No one got out of the vehicle. You couldn’t quite see anyone inside the truck even. Some mama intuition was starting to stir and something felt unsettling.

The boys continued to play for a few minutes while, thankfully, Danica was keenly alert and aware and noticed one of the officers drive by the school. She thought that was even more odd, putting two and two together, she then reached out to her husband. Danica inquired which deputy passed the school and what was he doing. Funke relayed to his wife that Deputy Eric Lindauer was searching for the vehicle of an alleged kidnapper. Danica described the truck that had just pulled up. Immediately Funke called his wife and directed us to all get back inside the school just as several more officers were about to arrive on scene.

Before she could hang up the phone the office staff at the school was already coming to the doors to let us back in, and then we hunkered down back inside the pre-K classroom.

Principal Ball received the call from the Sheriff’s Office at lunchtime and they placed the school on lockdown. Jeff Stanek’s history class, which had windows facing the incident, was swiftly moved to a safer area in the school. Doors were shut and locked very quickly; it was hard to keep track of everything happening. But as fast as it all went down, the boys played with some puzzles and toys and less than 10minutes later the scene was secure and the school was released back to normal activity.

Everyone that day should be commended for their actions, from the officers, the teachers, the office staff, the students, the sheriff, and especially, his wife! What could have been a very different and frightening outcome was handled so smoothly, and promptly, and you could see that day how well the staff at the school had trained for such an event.

I find it fitting to sit here and write this on Mother’s Day, Danica Funke you were truly a hero that afternoon at the school. Your gut, your Mom’s intuition, your awareness of what was going on, and your instincts to reach out and ask questions when you did, made a world of difference. Especially if things hadn’t ended so peacefully. I am sure your husband is proud of you, and we are all thankful for your watchful eye that day.