It was bad enough when the man who killed her father became a folk hero.
Now Jodi Pogue-Turner is worried that rising anti-government sentiment is fueling the same kind of disrespect for law enforcement that led to her father’s death.
Pogue-Turner was 24 when would-be mountain man Claude Dallas shot her father, Idaho Fish & Game warden Bill Pogue. Dallas was a trapper who didn’t want any lawman to tell him he was poaching. He killed Pogue and fellow warden Conley Elms.
Dallas claimed self-defense and got only a manslaughter conviction in 1982, even though he’d put a bullet behind each man’s ear for good measure while they lay wounded on the ground. He drew supporters who said he was a throwback to the Wild West and just wanted to be left alone.
Pogue-Turner spent years defending her father’s name against those who said his death was his own fault. Now her crusade has broadened to all law-enforcement officers.
She felt she had to defend not only her dad’s good name, but “his right to have been doing his job.”
“It was really painful,” she said. “It was hard to hear people in restaurants talking about it. You wouldn’t want to print the words they used.”
Once she was standing in line at a bookstore while the owner and the customer ahead of her were “going on and on about how Claude should’ve gotten off.”
“I stood there and I started shaking. I was getting madder and madder, and I was just hurt.”
She paid for her book and walked out, but then later called the owner and told him, “I just want you to know that I’m Bill Pogue’s daughter, and unless you know somebody you have no right to talk about them like that.”
“Every person in our family went through that for years afterwards,” she said.
This summer, Pogue-Turner wrote to U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, protesting legislation the congresswoman proposed. The bill would require the local county sheriff’s OK before federal officers could operate in a county.
Pogue-Turner got a letter back, in which Chenoweth wrote, “I do feel that it sends a very threatening message when armed federal agents approach ordinary citizens.”
“Why is that threatening?” Pogue-Turner asked, sitting back on her living room couch surrounded by her husband’s many hunting trophies. “I’ve been checked while I was fishing and stuff, and the fact that they had a gun on certainly didn’t threaten me or scare me.
“They’re not going to kill you. I can’t understand that mentality at all. That is the exact same mentality that Claude Dallas had when Dad and Conley Elms walked up to him.”
Pogue-Turner, a thin woman with neat blond hair, says she’ll go to Washington to testify against Chenoweth’s bill if it comes up for a hearing.
A mother of three, she recalls sadly that her oldest son, Jake, was the only grandchild Bill Pogue ever knew. Jake was less than a year old when Pogue died.
Pogue-Turner sees a society coming unglued, with children committing crimes and the world she knew growing up in peaceful Garden Valley, Idaho, slipping away. Law enforcement officers are the ones helping hold it all together, she believes.
“You won’t find a one of them that does it for the money,” she said. “They’re putting their life on the line every day.”
Pogue-Turner works as a secretary for the Idaho State Police. She raises money for peace officer memorials in Idaho and around the country. On her dad’s birthday, on holidays and the anniversary of his death, she flies a flag from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Her sister, Linda Rupe, said Pogue-Turner’s efforts help her feel close to her father. “I often wish I could’ve been more like Jodi, jumped in and done something more constructive with my hurt and anger. I often envy her for that.”
Pogue-Turner’s struggle hasn’t been an easy one. The jury’s decision to convict Dallas of manslaughter rather than murder shocked her and her family.
“I never dreamed that would happen, ever,” Pogue-Turner said. “See, I was raised that the justice system was good. If you did bad things, you got what you deserved. I found out that was not always the case.”
Pogue-Turner had some rough years. Two marriages collapsed.
Much of Dallas’ defense depended on making her father out to be a bully. A game warden for many years who once served as the police chief of Winnemucca, Nev., Pogue was “a by-the-book kind of guy,” the daughter said. “If you broke the law, you broke the law.”
But she said he also looked more stern than he was, partly because of an eye injury years earlier. “He kind of squinted all the time because he could only see out of the one eye.”
Pogue-Turner remembers a father with a great sense of humor, who used to crawl up the stairs at her and her brother and two sisters, growling and making funny faces. He was always helping care for animals that people brought by, including eagles, hawks, cougars and bears.
In later years, he made pen-and-ink drawings of mountain men and cowboys, using a magnifying glass to work because of his eye problem.
Several of those pictures hang in his daughter’s home.
Pogue knew his job was dangerous, Pogue-Turner said. Most of the people game wardens come into contact with have some type of weapon, whether it’s a gun during hunting season, or a knife while out fishing, a bow and arrow or something else.
“The way that he raised us kids was that you respected the law, you abided by the law. That’s just the way it was.”
She worries that criticism of federal officers by politicians like Chenoweth, who called U.S. Fish & Wildlife officers in Lemhi County “gun-toting possum cops,” sends a message to would-be Claude Dallases that they don’t need to respect the law or its officers.
Chenoweth disagrees, and says she condemns violence.
But Pogue-Turner said, “I don’t think she realizes what she’s doing.”
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