Bond set for veteran accused of stalking Westboro Church members

The Wichita EagleDecember 2, 2010 

A veteran who was severely wounded in Afghanistan remained in the Sedgwick County Jail on Wednesday on a $500,000 bond, suspected of stalking members of a Topeka church known for protesting at soldiers' funerals.

The protests by Westboro Baptist Church have been widely condemned, and in the past 5 1/2 years, the church has received lots of threatening e-mails and phone calls, a Westboro official said Wednesday.

But the reaction is "taking on a different dimension lately," said church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper. Increasingly, Westboro members are being followed or harassed as they leave protests, she said.

Phelps-Roper, 53, said she couldn't think of another incident like the one that culminated Tuesday in the Wichita City Hall parking lot. Authorities say an Army veteran followed a vehicle carrying five Westboro members — Phelps- Roper and four of her siblings — to City Hall.

What made it different, she said, is that the man had guns and abundant ammunition in his vehicle, which was backed into a parking spot outside the building where they were meeting with police officials about safety concerns at protests.

In the man's vehicle, authorities found two handguns, a rifle and more than 90 rounds of ammunition, sources said.

The man was arrested and remained in jail Wednesday on suspicion of stalking, driving on a revoked license and false impersonation.

The man, in his 20s, lives in another county. On Wednesday, federal agents were in the man's town asking questions about him, an official there said.

Sedgwick County sheriff's investigators plan to present their investigation of the incident to prosecutors this morning, Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said. It will be up to prosecutors whether to charge the man.

The Eagle generally does not name suspects unless they have been charged.

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