A Kansas-based church group who vowed to picket the funeral of three Asher residents killed in a vehicle wreck were a no-show Saturday.
The funerals for 16-year-old Leah Hanson, 19-year-old Andrew McBroom and 21-year-old Joshua McBroom, were conducted at the Brooks Field House at Bowlegs High School at 11 a.m. A crowd of mourners which numbered in the hundreds were in attendance.
Members of the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church — notorious for picketing funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in action — indicated on the group’s Website they would picket the funeral, saying the deaths of the three youths was God’s retaliation for the group’s vehicle tires being slashed while they were picketing the funeral of a fallen U.S. soldier Nov. 13 in McAlester.
The group was nowhere to be seen in Bowlegs, but dozens of bikers from all around Oklahoma did show up, creating a loud roar as they as the approached the small town 30-miles-north of Ada.
Just over three-dozen bikers rolled in the the school’s parking lot.
They said they were there to support and protect the family and to “rev up their bike motors” to drown out chants which usually accompany Westboro’s protests. Many mourners thanked them for their support.
One biker, Charles James of Seminole, rides with the Christian Motorcycle Association and said he was there to support the crash victims’ family and to honor his own grandchildren who were killed in a car wreck as well.
“I heard this group from Kansas was coming down here to protest and I don’t think it’s right,” James said at the funeral. “I think it’s wrong to come down here and interfere with this funeral. These people lost three kids from one family.”
Brothers Andrew and Joshua McBroom were cousins of Leah Hanson. All three were passengers in a vehicle driven by 18-year-old Chad Mullen of Wewoka, which crashed Tuesday night north of Asher.
Approximately two-dozen law enforcement officials were present at Saturday’s funeral.
Seminole County Sheriff Shannon Smith said he was there to keep the peace and escort the family from the school to the cemetery. Deputies from Seminole and Pottawatomie counties, police from Asher, Maud, Konawa, Seminole Nation and Sac and Fox Nation were also on hand.
“The reason we’re here ... is to keep law and order and make sure everybody stays safe,” Smith said. “We’re just here to make sure the family is protected and everybody’s rights are protected.”
The three victims were escorted to a cemetery just east of Asher without incident. The Website for Westboro Baptist Church indicated their belief that the crash victims were “struck down in their prime by an angry God.”
The site also had hateful messages for residents of Oklahoma.
“The residents of faux-Christian infested Oklahoma raise their children for the Devil, and expect the blessings of God,” the site read. “Then, when God curses them for that rebellion, they think they can stop WBC’s Gospel message (repent and obey!) by vandalizing WBC property. As a result of their mistreatment of the Lord’s servants and their refusal to train up their children in the ways of the Lord, God himself continues to kill more children in evil Oklahoma.”
Mullen remains hospitalized at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City with head, leg, arm, internal and external injuries.