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Just imagine what you would do

August 24, 2011
On Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011, 33 year old Jeremy Hill was enjoying this special occasion with his family.

He had no idea that his life was about to change; and all because he did the right thing. After his guests had left, four of his six children were outside playing and shooting baskets in front of the house. His 5 year old daughter Aspen, the 8 year old twin girls Mercedes and Sierra, and his 11 year old son Cameron were engrossed in their play not realizing that three grizzly bears had come onto their property from the trees through the yard at the back of their home, not 40 yards away from where they were playing.

Luckily for the children, the bears went after their four pigs in a pen on the side of their log home. Two of the pigs were for the kid’s 4H project and the other two were being raised for food. Jeremy was just getting out of the shower when his wife Rachel saw the bears out of their bedroom window. Rachel started screaming for the children to come into the house even though she could not see them in the front of the house from her vantage point. Jeremy then saw the bears and the only weapon anywhere nearby was his daughter’s .270 unloaded rifle buried under blankets on a shelf in the laundry room. Neither Rachel nor Jeremy could hear any of their children while they were shouting for them to come into the house, and knew that their children were in serious danger. Jeremy’s heart was in his throat as he located only three bullets to load the rifle with and stepped out onto the back deck from their bedroom. Rachel had laid their six month old baby girl Bristol on the bed and headed to the front of the house to get to their children, filled with panic and fear for her children that no mother should ever have to endure.

One of the grizzlies was halfway into the pig pen and Jeremy did not know if his kids were safe but knew that if they were, they wouldn’t be for long if the bears charged towards the basketball hoop where the children had been playing when he had gone into the house to take his shower. Rachel continued her race to get the children to safety, not knowing what she would find when she got to the front door. When she found all of them uninjured from the bears, a moment of thankfulness and gratitude to God coursed through her heart and soul when she saw that they were safe. While she was getting the children into the house, Jeremy took aim at the grizzly that was closest to him while it was attempting to get to one of the pigs and took his shot. The crack of the rifle shot scared the other two grizzlies that were on the opposite side of the pig pen away from the pigs and they ran towards the trees behind the house. No shots were fired at the two retreating bears as they would not be a threat as long as they continued on into the forest and away from the house.

The grizzly climbing into the pig pen was hit and tumbled off the top of the pen’s fence. Jeremy was not sure where the bullet had hit but the bear got up and left the pig pen limping slightly and headed to the back of the house with the family dog following the bear and barking at it as it started in the same direction the other two bears had gone.

Just when Jeremy was about to take a sigh of relief, the wounded bear stopped, turned and started charging towards one of the large basement windows under the deck where Jeremy was standing. With a new jolt of fear, knowing there was nothing to stop the bear from entering the house except a large windowpane of glass; Jeremy fired another shot at the grizzly as it charged forward. The bullet hit the bear and it rolled, trying to get up and then stopped. A shaken up Jeremy, thinking that their ordeal was over, came back into the house, picked up his baby off the bed and went to check on his family. The young children were frightened and crying despite Rachel assuring them that the bears could not hurt them and continued trying to sooth them.

As the family started to calm down, Rachel got the phone book for Jeremy so he could call the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. While looking for the phone number, Jeremy looked up and saw that the bear was trying to crawl off into the woods. Despite the two bullets in the bear, it continued to make its way towards the kid’s play area and trampoline positioned on the opposite side of the house from the pig pen, near the house and next to some trees and bushes. The bear stopped behind a tree, wounded but not dead. Jeremy had already put the rifle away, but retrieved it with its one last bullet and carefully made his way towards the bear now in the bushes, unsure whether the bear was dead or would try to attack him. Greatly concerned to have a badly wounded grizzly bear in the area threatening others, Jeremy located the wounded bear and used his last bullet to shoot the bear a third and final time, thus putting the animal out of its misery and suffering and eliminating the danger to others.

Jeremy then immediately called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and left a message about the incident. Senior Conservation Officer Greg Johnson from IDFG called back and came out to the scene approximately two hours or so later, along with biologist and conservation officer Brian Johnson and biologist Wayne Wakkinen. Jeremy explained what had transpired and Greg Johnson had Jeremy accompany him to the location of the downed bear and had him come armed with a different and loaded rifle. It was determined that the bear was deceased and Johnson assured Jeremy that there should not be any issue as he was protecting his family and property. The IDFG brought two bear traps that they placed next to the pig pen, ignoring the Hill family’s objections. Jeremy had asked them to place the traps elsewhere as he did not want the grizzlies to come anywhere near his home again. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s attempt to bait the grizzly bears back onto the Hill family property for capture was ultimately unsuccessful. The location of the other two grizzly bears is unknown.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game notified the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as the grizzly is on the “endangered species” list and considered a protected animal by the federal government under the ESA (Endangered Species Act). It was approximately a month before the USFWS showed up to do their investigation.

As our 40th President Ronald Reagan said:
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are:
‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.”

After the Feds had completed their “investigation,” Jeremy was “offered” a plea bargain if he would plead to a misdemeanor and pay a $6000 fine. Jeremy feels now and felt then that he did not do anything wrong by shooting a bear that was a threat to his children. He felt that pleading guilty and paying a fine would damage his reputation and go against his principles. It had been indicated to Jeremy that the Feds were not going to pursue the case any further.
On August 8th, the following story was posted on the Spokesman-Review:

Subject: Bonners Ferry man charged with killing grizzly

Posted by Rich
Aug. 8, 2011 4:45 p.m. • 0 comments

POACHING — Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, has been charged for killing a grizzly bear, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today. The information filed today in United States District Court alleges that on May 8, 2011, Hill shot and killed a grizzly bear that was on his property in Bonner’s Ferry. The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1975, and protected by federal law.

The charge of killing a threatened species is punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to one year of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wendy J. Olson, the United States Attorney that filed the charges against Jeremy, was appointed by President Obama for the District of Idaho less than a year ago on June 26, 2010. According to her bio at Ms. Olson is married with two children and resides in Boise. I can’t help but wonder that if Ms. Olson’s two children were threatened by three grizzlies, would she just stand back and do nothing rather than protect her own children?

Jeremy did not even know that he was being charged by Idaho’s U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson for the grizzly bear incident until a friend of his called him and asked him about the charges after reading about it in the Spokesman. Jeremy received notice of his arraignment hearing on August 12th, four days after the news article came out. Jeremy was notified that he had to appear in federal court on August 23rd at 10:00 am in Coeur d’Alene.

Jeremy Hill took the following actions for which he should be commended, not prosecuted for: Jeremy protected his family; he called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to report the incident; he explained what happened and was told by Greg Johnson that this would not be an issue as he was protecting his family and property; he cooperated in the federal investigation; and to this day, he does not understand why the federal government is trying to prosecute him for his actions. What kind of message does that send to those of us who have always believed in the rule of law?
I met Jeremy and his family for the first time on August 13th. Jeremy showed me around his yard, describing what had happened, showing me where his kids were playing, where the bears had been by the pigs and where he was on the deck as he tried to protect his children and where the wounded bear was as it went towards the basement as well as it’s final resting place.
I could tell that this was difficult for him to talk about as it brought those horrific memories right back. No words had to be spoken to understand that this could have been a tragedy of unparalleled proportion for them if the bears had gone after his children rather than the pigs when the three grizzlies came into his yard. I was impressed with Jeremy’s soft spoken humility and gratefulness that, with all that his family had gone through because of this experience, his children had not been harmed and he was not worried about his pigs, and as he told me, “they can be replaced; my kids can’t.”

I was invited inside and offered a glass of ice water as we settled onto comfortable chairs with Rachel and the kids joining us in the wonderfully decorated living room. There were groupings of beautiful photos of the children, now sitting around me, as I noted the word “FAMILY” on the wall. 9 month old Bristol was crawling around on an immaculate floor, sat back and looked up at me with beautiful, big blue eyes, and smiled at me. Two of the girls were on the sofa and one of them was cuddling a new puppy they had just gotten. 14 year old Jasmine stood next to her Mom with her arm around her Mom’s waist. The only thing brighter in the room than the sun shining through the wall of glass windows was the love and devotion this family has for each other.

Jeremy and Rachel are still afraid that the bears will come back and for the first week after the bear attack, the children were not allowed to go outside. The only thing the kids are afraid of now is what is going to happen to their Dad. Rachel told me that all the children wanted to be at their father’s arraignment hearing, including Jasmine who would turn 15 on that date. My heart ached for this family as I listened to them and could see the toll they were paying from the stress and emotional turmoil the federal government was inflicting on the Hill family, especially after what they had all lived through just three months prior. I assured them that I would be there as well to support the family during this unnecessary arraignment hearing that they would be going through.

We hear about injustice in our country and the world all the time, but when it happens in your own community we can either ignore what is happening around us, or we can try to do something about it. As a mother and grandmother, my choice has been to do something to help this Boundary County family. I know what I would have done if it were my kids or grandkids being threatened by three grizzlies. What would you have done?

On June 14th, after a presentation by Guy Patchen from Idaho for Wildlife, the Boundary County Republican Central Committee voted to assist Jeremy Hill by contacting the Governor and U.S. Representative Raul Labrador. I drafted a letter to Governor Otter but since I had been advised on June 18th that the charges were being dropped, my letter was not sent and Jeremy did not want to pursue any further action. Aaron Caulkins, Raul Labrador’s north Idaho Regional Director out of Coeur d’Alene, was at our meeting and he made contact with Raul the following morning. Jeremy has been in constant contact with Labrador’s office since that time, but I have been told that even Raul is being shut out by the US Attorney’s Office.

At our BCRCC meeting on August 9th, the day after the Spokesman-Review article hit, we reiterated our support for Jeremy. I said I would gather further information and determine what needed to be done to help. After contacting Kevin Kimp from IFW, I asked to meet with Jeremy which I did as described. It is obvious to me that Jeremy has been unfairly targeted by the Feds for killing a grizzly while protecting his family. The article posted in the Spokesman-Review made it sound like Jeremy was “poaching” which was ludicrous to say the least.

What a wonderful community we live in. On Friday evening, August 20th, during the swine auction at the Boundary County Fair, “Regina,” Jasmine Hill’s 4H pig, was auctioned off 15 consecutive times, raising a total of $19,588 and then “Regina” was given back to Jasmine who had raised her. I was not at the auction, but had received a phone call early Saturday morning telling me about the auction. As tears welled up in my eyes when I heard the story, it made me so proud to be a part of this generous and caring community. The full story of the auction can be accessed at:

The day started early for everyone on Tuesday, August 23rd, especially for the Hills. I arrived at the U.S. Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene a little before 9 am, right after Jeremy, Rachel and the kids had arrived. As we entered the fairly new and imposing courthouse, purses and a diaper bag were surrendered for inspection by U.S. Marshalls, belts and shoes removed including the kids’ and some received extra attention with the use of a wand if they set off the metal detector portal. Photo identification for all adults had to be presented before being allowed past the metal detector. All the kids were troopers as they submitted to the instructions of the three U.S. Marshalls.

We were all greeted by Jeremy’s attorney Marc Lyons and a U.S. defense attorney. Jeremy was then escorted along with his sister upstairs. Rachel stayed with the kids downstairs and greeted all the people that started showing up to show their support. I would estimate that there were about 70-75 folks who came. It was nice meeting the Hill’s relatives, neighbors and friends that made the trip to Coeur d’Alene.

As I sat on a wooden bench in the foyer talking to Sierra, one of the twins, I noticed across the room and behind a glass wall, the three foot high words “We the People” and about 6” high in script the rest of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution: “ of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The irony was not missed by me that here we were in a United States courthouse looking for justice, only to soon be disappointed by a system that seems to value the life of a bear over the life of a person, and in this case, four children; and all because a father did the right thing to protect his family.

After about 45 minutes we were escorted upstairs to the courtroom. As the pews quickly filled up, it was obvious that not everyone was going to fit. One of the court clerks stated that the judge wanted the doors closed, so she had the larger courtroom opened and we all moved down the hall. By squeezing together, everyone was able to sit down in the courtroom. Linda Hall apparently missed the small sign upon entering the courtroom prohibiting any photos, and after she stooped down to take a picture of both galleries of supporters with her cell phone, a U.S. Marshall quickly escorted her out of the courtroom where I understand she was questioned, instructed to remove the pictures from her phone, told to provide her identification and warned that if any photos from the hearing showed up in the media that she could face prosecution.

We were then all told to rise as Judge Candy Dale entered the courtroom. The judge read the charges and statute violations that were being levied against Jeremy as well as the consequences that he faced if found guilty; those being one year in prison, up to a $50,000 fine or both and a year of supervised release. Jeremy was asked by the judge if he understood the charges and punishment for killing an endangered or threatened species, specifically a grizzly bear in this case and he answered very respectfully, “Yes, your Honor.” He was then asked what his plea was and he answered, “Not guilty, your Honor.” As the judge set Jeremy’s court date for October 4th at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. District Courthouse where we presently were, to be presided over by Judge Edward Lodge, a pin could have been heard in that huge room. I believe that every one of us was held in a moment of disbelief that what we were hearing was in fact reality and not a nightmare we were all experiencing at the same moment in time. Jeremy looked as though the weight of the world were balanced on his shoulders as he looked at his family in the first pew where they were all sitting. The one good thing? This will be a jury trial.

The judge then talked about Jeremy being a flight risk and wanted his passport surrendered. Marc Lyons then took the floor and explained that Jeremy was in no way a flight risk and that the family lives just a short distance south of the Canadian border; also that the family often travels to Canada for activities such as swimming lessons for the children in Creston. This was debated for a short while and the judge agreed that Jeremy could keep his passport; however, anytime he plans to cross into Canada he will be required to call courthouse services to advise them when he is crossing the border and upon his return. Ms. Cooke, the U.S. prosecuting attorney from Coeur d’Alene, agreed with the judge on these conditions. Jeremy was also advised that the rifle used to shoot the grizzly needed to be surrendered to the court.

As the judge banged her gavel on the bench telling us that the hearing was adjourned, the sound reverberated throughout the room. We all exited the courtroom, myself feeling as if I was in a daze, trying to understand how this could happen and wondering how common sense had gotten so skewed in the world we live in today. It will take “We the People” to do what we can to stop this travesty of justice.

Jeremy needs the help of our great community as well as all Idahoans and Americans that see the injustice our federal government is inflicting on this north Idaho family. Now that we know that Jeremy is going to trial on October 4th, an experienced and competent attorney that deals with cases like this is being searched out. Fighting the federal government that has all the taxpayer dollars that it needs will be expensive for the Hill family. Jeremy is a self-employed excavator and he and his family will need financial help for the battle ahead. If you can help at all, even if it is a small donation, several bank accounts have been set up by Idaho for Wildlife (and will be monitored by IFW) to assist Jeremy with his legal defense costs. Checks should be made out to the “Jeremy Hill Benefit Account” and contributions can be sent to:

Wells Fargo Bank
6764 Main Street
P.O. Box 1509
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805

or go to any Wells Fargo and tell them the account is held at the Bonners Ferry Branch.

Mountain West Bank
PO Box 59
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805

or go to any Mountain West branch and tell them the account is held at the Bonners Ferry Branch

Panhandle State Bank
P.O. Box 1479
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805

or go to any Panhandle State Bank, Intermountain Community Bank or Magic Valley Bank and tell them the account is held at the Bonners Ferry Branch

In the meantime, I will be working with organizations to get some fund raisers started. If you would like to be involved in this endeavor, please call or email me. Of if you belong to an organization that would like to have a fundraiser for the Hills, please let me know that as well. With God’s help and by working together we can help the Hills defeat “Goliath.” Isn’t that what being a good neighbor in north Idaho is all about? We all need to realize that this could happen to any one of us.
And most importantly, please pray for the Hill family and keep them in your thoughts as they deal with the overwhelming challenge ahead of them when Jeremy faces the U.S Government’s criminal charges in federal court on October 4th for killing a grizzly bear that was a serious and immediate threat to his children and livestock.

Please forward this on to everyone in your address book; not just in Idaho, but everywhere! Thank you for any help you can provide to Jeremy and Rachel Hill and their children, Bristol, Aspen, Mercedes, Sierra, Cameron and Jasmine.
Donna Capurso
Chairman, Boundary County Republican Central Committee
Bonners Ferry
(208) 267-6506
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