Mrs. Wilkins was startled from her bed by would-be attackers pounding at her front door in the dead of night. Her daughters awoke terrified, and they ran to their bedroom closet. With Dad away on charitable business in the 3rd world, there was no one to defend them from these unknown intruders. They had to hide. Mrs. Wilkins went to use the phone in the kitchen to silently dial for help, but was repelled when it rang before she could lift the receiver. Who was calling at this hour? Perhaps her husband was calling her from overseas. She picked up the receiver. "Hello!" â?? no reply. The line was open, but there was no response from the caller.
This Floridian bedroom community, still basking in the attention of a 9-11tragedy investigation, was quiet and asleep. Nearby, the airport where notorious terrorists had trained for their exploits rested from its bustling air traffic. At 1:30 A.M. the highways were motionless, except for the occasional police squad car. Local businesses appeared lifeless and empty, and homes were dark except for the doorbell buttons dimly lighting porch areas. The neighborhood playground, where the Wilkins girls like to play on the swings with Daddy, was still. However, as the community's inhabitants lie resting from yesterday's endeavors, a few docile suburbanites were staged in a horrific event, in the midst of their safe, well-scrutinized, and protected neighborhood.
Sarasota County, Florida: The real Homeland Security started here just after September 11th, 2001 as swarms of investigators combed the streets for more would-be terrorists training at the local airfield in nearby Venice. Every neighborhood was teaming with people asking questions that might lead to a conviction. Black Crown Victorias and Suburbans with dark tinted glass, along with an occasional green government van, frequented the streets for months looking for suspects with dark features speaking with Arabic accents. After every stone was overturned, and every doorknob fingerprinted, the unmarked vehicles had left. It was peaceful again in that sunny coastal county.
There was a number on Mrs. Wilkins' caller ID screen. Perhaps it was neighbors who had tried to call in her time of need. Perhaps they were watching from their own home across the street. She pressed the auto re-dial button. It rang several times, and then suddenly the banging resumed at the front door and kitchen window simultaneously. She hung up and ran back to her bedroom, her heart pounding. She locked the door and reached for the portable phone to dial 911. Once again, it rang before she touched the handset. She hesitated, and then picked it up. It was silent; â?? she could not dial out for help. The caller ID displayed the same number as before.
Was this a scene from the latest Terminator science-fiction movie, or a preview of a coming mini-series? Mrs. Wilkins wishes it were. Rather, it was a reality unfurled in a typical American town during the week of November 17th, 2002. Here, in the wake of Washington's turbulent political debate over the establishment of the Homeland Security Department, one citizen and her two little children were facing exactly what Homeland Security is supposed to protect her family from: Terrorism. She thought to herself that if Homeland Security had already been established, she would no doubt be resting like all her fellow villagers; safe, because of the increased protection of a vigilant police force trained to repel a foreboding onslaught of dangerous and self-serving fanatics trying to gain entry to our homes.
Time was of the essence; she had to call for help. One more attempt. Just then, she heard voices snickering outside her bedroom window. She glanced toward the window and saw a flashlight's glare on the curtains. Then the voices became distant. Was this all a prank? It was silent now, but one of the girls began to sob from the closet where she huddled amongst toys, shoes and fallen clothing. Mrs. Wilkins opened her door and ran down the hall to her young daughters. Are you OK? The girls clung to their mother as she peered out of their bedroom window. At last, a patrol car! The Sarasota County Sheriff's Department was there. It was sitting in her driveway, but its lights were off. She ran with the children to the front window feeling safe that her attackers were subdued. There were only two Sheriff's Deputies with flashlights laughing as they approached their squad car. Where were the men that terrorized her and her children? She stood puzzled as she gazed out into her front yard from behind the curtains.
When asked if she had any previous encounters with local authorities, Mrs. Wilkins said her husband had been detained for 6 hours of interrogation last June after an elderly man drove his vehicle into Mr. Wilkins' parked car. Mr. Wilkins had summoned the deputies to fill out a damage report for his vehicle, which he was not driving at the time. When the deputy saw that Mr. Wilkins was a foreign resident, he arrested him.
Mrs. Wilkins said that her husband was verbally accused of being a terrorist the entire time he was detained by the Sheriff. A current photo reveals that Mr. Wilkins does not fit the visual profile of an Islamic terrorist, especially with his blond hair and blue eyes. According to his wife, he spoke to the Deputies with the clarity of a local TV newscaster. Perhaps they felt he looked more ominous this past June. Did he sport a taboosh and rattle a saber?
Further discussions revealed that her husband was a dedicated missionary. For the past 20 years, he has constructed churches throughout West Africa, and was well known for his humanitarian acts in that war-torn region. How ironic that an American who has converted Muslims to Christianity in Africa would be considered a possible terrorist in his homeland. Evidently, during the time Mr. Wilkins was observed on the closed circuit camera at the Sheriff's interrogation room, while still in handcuffs, he visibly practiced what his faith encourages; prayer.
When asked why the Sheriff might want to profile her husband as a terrorist, she was at a loss for words. Perhaps an American-born ordained Christian minister, dedicated to charitable work in other lands, is now part of the U.S. terrorist profile. Her only response was that the Sheriff had confiscated their car and accused her husband of driving without a valid driver's license, even though he had provided them with ample documentation to prove otherwise as a foreign resident. Mr. Wilkins was not even driving at the time of the collision; his car was parked in a private lot! She says her husband had told her that this was typical behavior for deputies looking to garner a raise or promotion. How would he know? Mr. Wilkins is also a former U.S. military and civilian police officer who voluntarily left what he considered to be a "job where a Christian cop is never trusted because his fellow officers are afraid that he'll always tell the truth."
So, if one were to consider the benefits of a Homeland Security Department, what would he envision? Would the community rest with a new and improved police force, allegedly ready to defend the average citizen at any hour? Or would it manifest, as it did in Nazi Germany, as a self-serving, antagonistic, cruel and non-accountable cadre of thugs that force their way into homes in the name of some indiscernible form of justice? Would we find commonplace the inexcusable events that befell the Wilkins family?
When asked what she thought about Homeland Security, Mrs. Wilkins said that in all the time her family has spent in impoverished and troubled nations, she had never felt less secure than right here, in the land where she and her husband, as well as their children, were born as Americans. She said street thieves had assaulted her husband once while overseas, but he always humbly knew what to expect considering the harsh circumstances he faces with his work. Many of his teeth were broken in the Dominican Republic while he was trying to establish a barrio orphanage for the abandoned children that lived in the streets.
Upon investigation of Mr. Wilkins' record, it appears that someone at Florida's Highway Safety & Motor Vehicle Department recently issued him a Florida Driver's License months after his detention, although there is no record of any application. By international treaty, Mr. Wilkins is not required to have a Florida Driver's License as a foreign resident. His country of legal residence issues its own, and he also carries an International Drivers Permit here in the U.S. The Sheriff retained his permit and removed the tags from his car as well. Now, to make matters more convoluted for the Wilkins family (and for anyone prone towards logic), the State of Florida revoked the license they had just issued days before, scheduled a court hearing without Mr. Wilkins being present, and a State Circuit Court judge held him in contempt of court for not appearing to pay a fine that he wasn't aware of. And what was his supposed crime? Driving with a suspended license that he never had applied for, nor had ever driven with. This is the new Homeland Security at its best: 'Liberty' need not apply.
Mrs. Wilkins said that several days before her midnight 'poundings on the door', a Sarasota Sheriff's deputy, asking for her husband, approached her in her driveway. He didn't state the nature of his business, and her reply was that her husband would likely return for Christmas. She believes that same deputy was one of the men terrorizing her that night since he also had foreknowledge that her husband was off on missions work. She also said that she didn't know who to turn to, since it was the very people that she had trusted for her homeland security that were now apparently terrorizing her.
The Sarasota County Sheriff, William F. Balkwill, can
be reached at Tel
941-861-4129 / 861-5800, Fax 941-861-4955, email: SRQSher@co.sarasota.fl.us
Judge Barbara Briggs of The 12th Judicial Circuit,
Sarasota County Courts, can be reached at Tel 941-861-3050, Fax 941-861-3292,
Mr. Wilkins was not available for comment, as he has not returned from overseeing the building of new churches in the wilderness of West Africa where telecommunications are very poor.
This article may be freely copied and re-produced.
Thanks to Daniel E. Webster for this insightful article
found originally at