Police Showdown — and Near-Constitutional Crisis — in Schiavo Case?

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By: E&P Staff

State and local police officers nearly faced off over Terry Schiavo, the Miami Herald has reported, with state officers reportedly on their way to resume feeding for the brain-damaged woman, as local police replied they would uphold the judge’s order keeping the feeding tube removed.

?Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding,? the Herald reported flatly. ?For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called ‘a showdown.’

?In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families (DCF) backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice. ‘We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,’ said a source with the local police.?

However, officials from Gov. Bush’s office and the Department of Children and Families denied any police showdown occurred Thursday over restoring feeding for Schiavo, who was disconnected from the feeding tube March 18.

“There was no showdown,” said Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for the governor’s office, told The Associated Press. “We were ready to go. We didn’t want to break the law. There was a process in place and we were following the process. The judge had an order and we were following the order.”

“DCF directed no such action,” said agency spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez.

But the Herald reported: “The incident, known only to a few and related to The Herald by three different sources involved in Thursday’s events, underscores the intense emotion and murky legal terrain that the Schiavo case has created. It also shows that agencies answering directly to Gov. Jeb Bush had planned to use a wrinkle in Florida law that would have allowed them to legally get around the judge’s order. The exception in the law allows public agencies to freeze a judge’s order whenever an agency appeals it.

?Participants in the high-stakes test of wills, who spoke with The Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen.

“‘There were two sets of law enforcement officers facing off, waiting for the other to blink,’ said one official with knowledge of Thursday morning’s activities.

?In jest, one official said local police discussed ‘whether we had enough officers to hold off the National Guard.'”

According to the Herald’s sources, DCF intended to take Schiavo to Morton Plant Hospital, where her feeding tube had been reinserted in 2003 after a previous judicial order allowing its removal.

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