MERIDIAN, Idaho — Amid protests over the last week surrounding the decision to place an underweight baby in the care of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW), the Meridian Police Department on Friday announced the baby was returned to its parents around noon.
The boy, identified as 10-month-old Cyrus Anderson, was originally brought in to the hospital March 1, where medical personnel determined he was "was suffering from severe malnourishment," according to Meridian Police. The baby stayed in the hospital until March 4, when he was determined to have gained enough weight under medical care to go home.
But by the time he was brought to a follow-up appointment last week, police say, Cyrus had again lost a significant amount of weight. The baby's parents, Levi and Marissa Anderson, canceled the next follow-up, then failed to show for another examination, even as police were informed that the infant could die without treatment, the department said.
Officers went to a home in Meridian to look for the child, but the occupants refused to let them in to check on Cyrus. By the time they returned with a warrant, Meridian Police said, the baby and his parents were gone.
Levi Anderson was later pulled over on Chinden Boulevard; officers declared the baby to be in "imminent danger" and took him to St. Luke’s in Meridian for treatment.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy and a group of his followers staged the first protest outside of the hospital Saturday, carrying signs proclaiming that the couple's parental rights were being violated and that Cyrus should be returned.
Bundy, Marissa Anderson, Wendy Kay Whitaker and Miranda Chavoya were all arrested on misdemeanor charges ranging from trespassing to obstructing officers.
Tuesday marked the fourth straight day that demonstrators have protested outside of a St. Luke's facility.
On Friday, the Meridian Police Department (MPD) said "in these situations, the goal is to reunite the child to its parents as soon as it is healthy enough to be returned."
MPD's news release also asked protestors -- who placed St. Luke's Hospital in Boise on lockdown Tuesday afternoon for more than an hour after -- to end their protests.
"There is no need to continue protesting or harassing our public health officials, police officers or anyone else involved," MPD said.
Nurses, doctors, and other employees were instructed not to enter or exit the building, and not open the doors to anyone. Incoming ambulances carrying patients were diverted away from St. Luke's to Saint Alphonsus and other area hospitals.
People seeking medical attention were asked to go to other facilities, while the general public was urged to avoid the area entirely.
Diego Rodriguez, Cyrus' grandfather and a friend of Bundy, said at a Monday press conference that he believes the baby was previously fine but is now "deteriorating" under the care of doctors.
"He was very healthy, he was strong, he was not malnourished," he said, adding that the family is concerned that the baby may have been secretly vaccinated while in the hospital.
An alert sent out to a far-right extremist group on Friday encouraged members to seek out the presiding judge in a local child welfare case at her residence.
People's Rights, a far-right extremist group in the Treasure Valley, received an audio alert Friday morning from group leaders, the Idaho Press reported. It encouraged members to protest at an Ada County judge's residence and doxx her, meaning posting her personal information online.
The Freedom Man Press on Friday said Levi and Marissa Anderson agreed to a measure of state oversight and intrusion. Child Protective Services (CPS) is required to go with the Andersons to all appointments and can check in on the parents and Cyrus unannounced.
CPS also has the authority to take the baby into medical care again, should they determine Cyrus is in danger. The adjudicatory hearing is April 18, according to Freedom Man.
Prior to MPD's news release Friday, IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen issued a statement explaining the child welfare process and IDHW's role in child welfare cases.
Jeppesen said the department is unable to release details about specific cases due to confidentiality, but explained the overall steps in child welfare situations and said, "our highest priority is to keep children with their families whenever that can be done safely, or to help the family address safety issues so a child can return home safely."
Protestors have visited IDHW's downtown location this week as well as St. Luke's. Jeppesen said the department respects individuals' rights to protest, but will not tolerate "when protestors target specific people, including our employees."
Earlier this week, Meridian Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea and Ada County Sheriff Matt Clifford, who has reviewed the case, doubled down on the decision to determine Cyrus was in imminent danger.
Clifford also told people who were upset with the officers' decision to stop calling 911 and non-emergency dispatch to voice their complaints, saying these calls were taking away from dispatchers' abilities to coordinate emergency response for police, fire, and EMS services.
Basterrechea outlined the process of police getting involved in a child's removal from his or her parents, noting that not every report from a relative, community member or mandated reporter like a teacher or nurse rises to the level of a child in imminent danger.
Following Meridian PD's announcement on Cyrus being returned to his parents, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued the following statement on the case and protestors' actions this week:
"As provided by law, Idaho's child protection system has helped protect thousands of our most vulnerable young people who can't otherwise protect themselves. This system works because it's deliberate, provides due process, is directed by laws that clearly outline when and how state intervention may occur, and is staffed by caring, selfless people.
"I've been disappointed by some protestors' actions this week. Protesting is a right guaranteed in our Constitution and I will passionately defend that right. But targeting and attempting to intimidate social workers, police officers and members of the judiciary who are simply doing their jobs to protect a vulnerable human life goes too far. It also ignores the fact that the child protection system provides a legal process for these matters to be adjudicated. None of us can take the law into our own hands in this fashion. Doing so is contrary to the Rule of Law and our republican form of government."
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