CENTRALIA, Wash. - The members of a Latino family in Centralia said their neighbor took them hostage and terrorized them. Centralia police said their neighbor also forced the family members to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and do chores, and broadcast the activities live on Facebook. KIRO 7 spoke to the mother and father and got the video, which has since been taken down from the Facebook page on which it was posted.
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Lewis County jail records show that 29-year-old Wellington Miles Waggener was booked into the jail last week. Court documents describe a situation in which Waggener allegedly intimidated three Latino children and their mother, held them hostage and forced them to do chores and yardwork and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The family members said it was all part of some twisted lesson on being an American.
The father and mother, whom we’ll refer to as GS and SS, asked that we not use their names. They had a lot to say how the family members were held against their will, and realized that the video backs up much of what they say happened to them. At one point in the video, the suspect screams at them to recite the pledge louder. GS was angry and upset when he first spoke on the issue, saying “How would you feel if they come and get your son and drag him out?” He said he was at work when he got the phone call about his family early on the morning of Wednesday, May 30. Now, GS said his whole family is living in fear even with Wellington Miles Waggener behind bars. “That's where he needs to be,” GS said.
Authorities said that around 7 a.m. on May 30, Waggener grabbed the 12-year-old boy when he walked out to the family car on his way to school.
Police said Waggener dragged the boy by his coat to a house. The suspect lifted the boy off the ground at one point and, court documents said, he allegedly hit the child and told him to pick up trash in the yard. SS went looking for the boy, with her two other children. At one point, she confronted the suspect, saying that her children all had tests that day and all had to go to school. “He said, 'Right here is the school. I'm the teacher. Now everybody have to say the Pledge of Allegiance,'” SS said.
Authorities said Waggener wouldn't let the family leave. He is close to 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs well over 200 pounds, so the family feared him. At one point in the video, he asks if the children can yell. The mother tells him to leave her daughter alone, and he replies angrily that the girl should yell, using an expletive to describe her.
When he stepped away, SS said, she told her children to escape. “'Run everybody!' They say, 'Really mom?' and I say, 'Yeah, run, everybody! Run!” They managed to get away and call the authorities.
A neighbor who spoke to KIRO 7 said that loud music may have been playing in the hours before the incident. Tara Smyth said loud music coming from the general area of the house where the family was held has always been a concern. Smyth did not see the video when it was broadcast on Facebook Live but heard about it from others. “He was trying to make them an American. Just scary. It's two doors down from here.”
The family believes it was targeted because of its background.
GS and SS said that now, after being traumatized by a nightmare neighbor, they won't let their children go outside. GS said the family is shaken and wants to move. “Everything you do here -- you try to protect your family and basically you're comfortable and then pretty soon somebody just, out of the blue, comes behind your wife's car and drags your son away,” he said.
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