Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


April 9, 2014

3 injured, 2 cited in Wells fight

Church of Wells members involved in altercation at event

WELLS — Three Church of Wells members were injured Saturday when attacked by two men during the annual Well's Homecoming Day parade, according to officials.

Kenneth Hunt, 38, and Dantrell Casel, 20, both of Alto, were issued citations for disorderly conduct, according to reports from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department.

The report said the two men engaged in a fight with Church of Wells members behind the Wells ISD gym after the church members attempted to "preach" to the crowd gathered for the parade.

In the altercation, Elder Sean Morris dodged a punch and fell, injuring his tailbone.

Morris told officers he heard and felt a "crunch" and believed his tailbone was broken. Morris was also hit with some of the pepper spray used by an officer on Hunt and Casel to stop the fight.

Church of Wells members Taylor Clifton, 22, received an injury to his upper lip and member Randall Valdez, 26, was injured on the side of his face.

All three victims refused medical treatment and refused to file charges on Hunt and Casel, said Captain John R. Raffield of the sheriff's office.

"There is only so much law enforcement can do," Raffield said. "Just because someone is saying something that you don't like or don't agree with ... we can't go and shut people up. Verbal aggression is different than physical."

When contacted by phone by the Daily Progress, Hunt refused to comment about the fight. Casel did not return the newspaper's call.

Raffield said he hopes the situation with the Church of Wells does not escalate further, however "who knows" what will happen next, he said.

Officers from Cherokee County Sheriff's Deparment, Alto Police Department and a DPS trooper responded to the scene.

While the Church of Wells has been out of the spotlight recently, despite past situations, the group was featured on a news special by ABC's Nightline Prime this past weekend.

The coverage included the parents of Catherine Grove, who left her home in Arkansas in 2013 to join the church. Contact with Grove has since been a rare occasion.

In October, Daily Progress then-reporter Ben Tinsley obtained an exclusive interview with Grove. During the interview, Grove said "I desire to stay here (with the Church of Wells)."

ABC reporter Dan Harris made attempts to speak with Church of Wells members; however, the men just stared at him in response. He eventually spoke with an elder, who refused to let ABC film the interview.

The interview appears to have taken place a few months ago, because it shows the former building where the Church of Wells held services. The building has since been sold by its leaseholders and demolished.

Church elder Jacob Gardner was featured on a portion of Harris' Nightline special, during which he refused to speak with the news team or Grove's parents.

"Thou art an offense unto me," Gardner told Harris, as he bicycled down a street in Wells.

Gardner was arrested in February at a religious event at the Sabine High School auditorium. He was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest/search.


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