Six armed and destitute Idaho kids who survived for months on lily pad soup sicced a pack of dogs Wednesday on the sheriff's deputies who arrested their mother.
The children, whose father died three weeks ago of multiple sclerosis, released the dogs after the deputies tried to get them to leave their Sandpoint, Idaho, home, authorities said.
"Everybody saw this coming. They were dirt-poor. The kids didn't have the right things to eat," said Rev. Dennis Day, who officiated at the father's funeral. "They really alienated themselves from the world."
Day also said the family rebuffed help and seemed beset with anti-government paranoia.
Sheriff Phil Jarvis said he was trying to avoid a repeat of the 1992 shootout at nearby Ruby Ridge, where the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver were killed during a standoff with federal agents.
"I have a four-year term," Jarvis said. "I'm not going to force an issue with children."
Deputies who retreated from the house after a two-hour standoff said they planned to wait out the kids peacefully.
The home, located down a dirt road just past a county dump,
"We know there are six children in there and guns in the house. The kids are trained to use the guns," Jarvis said.
Jarvis said the children, ages 8 to 16, would not respond to calls from social workers or police. Officers said a 15-year-old boy had taken a leadership role.
Officials are using a loudspeaker to tell the children that they will be fed, housed and taken to see their mother if they come out, Jarvis said. A 19-year-old sister who left home was assisting authorities.
The incident was triggered by Tuesday's arrest of the children's mother, JoAnn McGuckin, on a warrant charging felony injury to a child. Jarvis declined to elaborate on the charge.
Authorities believe McGuckin, 46, is mentally ill.
Deputies lured McGuckin from the house Tuesday with grocery money. She was taken into custody after going to a store with a deputy who had brought the cash.
Deputies returned to the home to get the children and put them in state custody, but one of the boys ran to the house and yelled, "Get the guns," the sheriff said. He said the children then let the dogs out of the basement.
"They hunt. They pack like wild animals," Jarvis said. "They took down a moose a little while ago."
Neighborhood resident Lloyd Wyatt, 84, said the children were sometimes seen around town dressed in ragged clothing. He said he wasn't surprised they were holed up in the house.
"We are a breed of people who say, 'This is our home and we are entitled to protect it,'" Wyatt said.— The AP contributed to this report.