Linda Rupard declared war on Johnson County law enforcers, and they fought back.

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Linda Rupard declared war on Johnson County law enforcers, and they fought back.

They don't give mattresses to inmates on suicide watch. So Linda Rupard's face is pressed against the bare metal cookie sheet that is her Johnson County jail bed. She lies on her stomach, the most comfortable position she can find.

But comfort is relative.

Her hands are numb. Not from cold -- the cell is stifling hot this November as the building HVAC guys struggle to get the newly fired furnace adjusted. But the guards have squeezed the handcuffs tightly around Rupard's thick wrists to keep her from wriggling out. A chain connects the cuffs to the head of the bed. Another connects her shackled ankles to its foot.

She has no idea how many hours she's been lying here. Long enough for her joints to have stiffened. Long enough to have wet her pants at least once -- only they aren't pants. Inmates on suicide watch don't get cloth. Rupard wears a special blue paper jumpsuit that is turning to pulp in the pool of urine. There's a toilet only a couple of feet away.

Her mind wanders. She thinks about good times with her grandmother, about karate class, Bible verses, running the 440 for Shawnee Mission East High School, the trip she plans to take to southern California when all of this is over, the pain.

She thinks about what she did to get into this mess. Not just being chained to the bed, which happened after she broke a jail window and threatened to kill herself, but the last 15 years and the war she has waged against the police officers and jailers of Johnson County. The war she thinks they've waged against her.

A few weeks later, when Rupard talks about being chained to the metal bed, she seems unemotional. From the other side of the visitor glass, she talks in a subdued monotone, neither frowning nor raising her voice at the memory.

Her only smirk comes as she collapses her thumb against her palm and pulls her left hand through a handcuff that the guards haven't clamped tightly enough. With an anxious glance over her shoulder at the jailers, she slides the cuff back on before anyone can see.

"I told you," she says.

Rupard's indifference to the three-day ordeal in November can be explained. Guards have chained Rupard to beds before. They've chained her, put her in straitjackets, Maced her.

"They used to hog-tie me," she says.

Linda Rupard has never beaten up a neighbor, robbed a liquor store or sold drugs to schoolchildren. She doesn't own a gun. Her crimes have never shown up on a newspaper police blotter.

But she has spent more than half the last decade in Johnson County jail and a Kansas state prison.

In Leawood police circles, she is notorious.

Nothing about Rupard's childhood foreshadowed her transformation into guerrilla warrior.

She was the youngest of three closely spaced children. She lived among the large manicured lawns just north of Ranchmart Shopping Center at 95th and Mission Road. Her dad worked for the IRS and paid to send her to private Catholic school. Her brother, John Rupard, remembers no hint of the temper that would develop.

But the prolonged illness and subsequent death of Rupard's mother from diabetic complications when Rupard was in eighth grade shattered Rupard's idyllic suburban existence. Rupard balks at talking about it but says her behavior problems started after that. The death tore up the whole family.

"My dad didn't even enroll me in school," Rupard says. "He forgot." Rupard's grandparents eventually enrolled her.

Jim Hartley, who taught Rupard karate as a teenager and has remained close, believes the death stunted Rupard's mental growth.

"When her mom died, she just kind of froze emotionally," Hartley says.

The karate classes were part of Rupard's adjustment following the death. And she was good, a natural athlete who eventually ran cross-country at Shawnee Mission East. She worked out several times a week in Hartley's studio beneath Ranchmart Theater.

Hartley wonders whether he played a role in the obsession that was to follow. Through him, Rupard met a few police officers who worked out at the karate studio. And Hartley remembers suggesting that her physical training might offer her a career in law enforcement, though Rupard says she never considered it.

Her choice of friends belied any inclination she might have had to wear a badge. She hung out with kids from East who were getting in trouble and with a guy who had warrants in Missouri. Rupard has a hard time pinpointing when she lost her anonymity with the Leawood police.

The officers probably didn't mark her late-night dip with kids who snuck into the Leawood Country Club pool. They might not have recognized the girl they chased a few times after Leawood's curfew. Or whose friend had firecrackers explode in her car.

Maybe it was after the summer of 1987, or the 1988 party that police broke up. Or maybe it was 1989, when Rupard was 20.

"There was a bunch of shit going on," she says. "I wasn't really stealing, but I knew people who were. They'd seen me at these people's houses."

Over and over, Rupard says, "They knew who I was."

Rupard believes that familiarity resulted in extra venom when cops stopped her for traffic violations. It also brought her the greatest insult of all, a mention in a newspaper story.

No one has saved the story, but Hartley remembers it as being about police officer groupies. "It made it look like she was hot for cops," Hartley says. "That article just set her off."

Rupard says the story didn't name her but referred to an exchange she'd had with a rookie officer. "I was making fun of him," she says. "He said I asked him out for a date, but I didn't."

The indignity raised the stakes.

Rupard believes the officers sought her out, stopping her on the street when she was walking, giving her traffic tickets and pulling her over to conduct DUI tests regardless of how she had been driving. She says they would stop her when she was jogging to ask her about crimes that had occurred or a bus door that had been kicked in.

Leawood police won't comment on specific people or specific incidents. But there is little reason to doubt that they were familiar with Rupard.

"I filled out a complaint one time," she says. "The harassment just went sky high after that."

Rupard says the officers would wave at her. She flipped them off in response.

Hartley remembers Rupard beginning to say things like "They're out for me. They are waiting in front of my house." He says he couldn't convince her they didn't have a vendetta against her.

Rupard's first physical confrontation with police came in October 1991. She had been at Applebee's and was on her way home when an officer pulled her over near 103rd and State Line. Rupard says she had been drinking. But she doesn't understand why the traffic stop escalated to violence.

"He dragged me out of the car," she says. "He was angry at me. He didn't even ask for my ID. He picked me up and slammed me down a couple times."

Rupard was arrested for battery of a law enforcement officer. She woke up in the Leawood police station and fought with the officers there as well. Rupard was convicted of driving under the influence and received probation.

The incident left an impression.

"I started becoming more aggressive in 1992," Rupard says.

Hartley says she called it "yahooing." He says Rupard would go into the grocery store where off-duty Leawood police were working, grab a six-pack of beer and run out.

"Just to challenge them because she could outrun all of them," Hartley says.

Rupard says she did steal a lot of beer. She would walk into Hy-Vee or Price Chopper, pick up the cans and walk out. Sometimes security guards would chase her, but they could never catch her.

In January of 1993, police arrested Rupard for aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. They accused her of trying to hit a DARE van with her car. She says the van's driver was watching her in his rear view mirror and hitting his brakes. Frustrated, Rupard drove around him.

"They said I tried to swerve at him or something like that, which was bullshit," she says. "It wasn't even close."

Rupard pleaded guilty to reckless driving, and the judge ordered her to serve 30 days in county jail and revoked her probation from the DUI conviction.

A year later, Leawood police pulled Rupard over again because she had failed to signal a turn and had run a stop sign on 102nd Street. As the officer approached her car in the early-morning darkness, Rupard got out and threw a can of blue spray paint into the storm sewer. The officer took her to his cruiser, cuffed her and put her in the back seat, where he questioned her about the can.

Rupard had vandalized a sign in Leawood Park.

"I wrote 'Crips' on it," Rupard says. It was a way to get back at Leawood police, she says.

Rupard was taken back to the police station, where she was accused of spitting on one officer and kicking another. On the way to the county jail, Rupard kicked out a police-car window.

She says she was handcuffed in the back seat of a cruiser with an officer who said she was going to jail.

"I called him a bitch punk, and he puts me in a headlock," she says. "I couldn't breathe, so I kicked the window out."

Rupard pleaded guilty to the vandalism. The assault charges were dismissed. But because of the sign's value, the judge gave Rupard a five-month prison sentence. Rupard rejected the offer of probation, figuring it would be better to do the time and get it over with. She served just under four months at the Topeka Correctional Facility in 1994 but violated her parole and returned for a three-month stay, from July to October, the next year.

In March 1996, she vandalized the same park, painting a sign and tennis court. The judge sentenced her to twelve months' probation.

"I was angry. I got some spray paint," she says. "I said something about [Leawood Police Chief Stephen] Cox on the tennis court. Then I put 'Bitch Cox' on the sign. I probably need some psychological help for doing something so stupid again."

That Rupard needed psychological help is clear in retrospect -- but despite repeated instances of what mental-health professionals might call cries for help, she has yet to receive appropriate treatment. Instead, she just keeps getting arrested.

That October, she was convicted of violating a protection order taken out against her by her own father. He had asked her to move out. The two fought, she says, because she wanted to move to San Diego, which her probation forbade, and he wouldn't give her the money to do so.

"He had had enough," she says.

Rupard received a six-month jail sentence and was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. Rupard says she doesn't remember the order, and she never tried to get the evaluation.

In December 1996, she again resisted police, pushing two officers who came to her father's home -- off limits because of the protection order.

Rupard's father declined to be interviewed for this story, saying he worried it would hurt his daughter to have her past publicized.

Rupard remembers the officers' coming to the door. "I shoved him. [An officer] had his hand on his gun and was using threatening comments and stuff," she says. "I shoved him back, and they charged me with two counts of battery, even though I didn't touch the other cop."

In January 1997, Rupard was accused of swerving her Ford Tempo toward a Leawood police officer.

Rupard denies the act but pleaded no contest to the charge, figuring she was going to lose her parole anyway. She spent the first half of 1998 in prison in Topeka.

She came out scared, she says. And for 15 months, that fear made a difference in the way she dealt with the world. Rupard says that when police harassed her by driving by or looking at her, she shrugged it off. Hartley found her work. She even patched up some of her family relationships -- she moved back in with her dad, and her brother told her his phone number and address, something he hadn't always done.

"I felt comfortable where she wouldn't be calling me all the time, harassing phone calls, or pounding on my door in the middle of the night, and she didn't," John Rupard says.

Linda Rupard lived part of the time with Hartley, his wife and their three teenage sons. Hartley says the situation worked well. She helped out around the house, doing dishes and yard work. She drove Hartley's sons around when they needed it, played basketball with them and rented movies with them. She attended church at Olathe Christian Fellowship with the Hartley family.

"She is a totally different person when she is not talking about her legal problems," Hartley says.

But when they would talk about her legal situation, she was unreachable.

"She kind of would get stuck on a replay cycle, and you couldn't talk logic to her," Hartley says. "She kind of didn't believe it was worth it."

Hartley kept Rupard employed, first with his brother's office-cleaning company, then cleaning construction sites and then stocking shelves at a grocery store. She usually was reliable.

"Once she gets in a routine she locks in good," Hartley says. "It was when the routine was switched ..."

Rupard's parole officer, Melvin Hicks, remembers the time differently.

"She didn't have any long periods of stability that I can recall," he says. "She was all over the board generally as a rule." Rupard's lack of job stability in particular bothered him. Rupard spent a month and a half out of work in the fall of 1999, and the time poisoned her already strained relationship with the parole officer.

"Everything is a struggle," Hicks says. "Trying to get information from her is like talking to an obstinate 8- or 9-year-old."

Hicks would ask about her job search. Instead of an answer, Hicks says, he would get a silly question.

"I don't want to say she was slobbering on herself, uncontrollable, hitting herself in the chest with her hand," Hicks says. "She just liked to fuck with you. She tried to jerk my chain, and I never bit."

Rupard and Hicks disagree on what led to her parole's being revoked in October 1999.

Rupard says Hicks turned her in for not having a job, even though she had one, and for threatening him, which she says she didn't do. She says the two were arguing over whether she needed to report to the parole office. "He said, 'If you don't show up, I'm going to send them to your house,'" she recalls. "I said, 'If you send police to my house, they are going to end up killing me.'" Rupard says Hicks perceived it as a threat: "He twisted it."

Hicks says he can't imagine antagonizing Rupard like that. But he says it is against policy to reveal what caused a parole violation.

In any event, Rupard did show up at the parole office October 7, 1999.

While she was there, officers came to arrest her for the parole violation.

"They said I was belligerent. I wasn't. I was shaking. I was scared. I was crying," she says. "They said, 'Get up and let's go.' That's when I ran."

She didn't go far, just a few steps down the sidewalk before she stopped at the street. But it was enough to trigger one of two charges that now hang over her head: aggravated escape. Rupard spent seven months in prison in Topeka because of the parole violation. Her release on May 19, 2000, came with an asterisk. She still had the escape charge.

She says it's Hicks' fault. "I blame him for lying on me," she says. "He knew I was trying to do my parole. He knew it."

Her release also came with an epiphany. For the first time, Rupard admitted she needed psychological attention.

"I knew I needed some kind of help," she says.

Rupard's family and friends have long suspected mental illness could be causing her problems. The paranoia. The contempt for authority.

And the temper. Her brother compares it to a scene in the movie T2: Judgment Day, where a muscled-up Linda Hamilton becomes enraged in an asylum and flings guards around the room. "Linda gets mad like that," John Rupard says. "I've seen her kick down doors and break tables and throw appliances."

Rupard's brother fought back a couple times, hitting her and then feeling terrible and vowing never to do it again. So when Rupard is angry, her brother leaves. "You run," he says. "If you can drive, you get in your car and you go."

But cops and corrections officers can't run away, John Rupard admits.

"I do think the system has been at fault for not addressing the real problem here, which is getting her help," John Rupard says.

Hicks says he tried.

A few times, Hicks says, he made appointments for Rupard at Johnson County Mental Health Center, though she doesn't remember his doing so. She never went. Rupard also never followed up on judges' orders to get mental evaluations. Nor did she take advantage of the mental health workers assigned to the Johnson County Detention Center.

Nationally, 16 percent of people in jail or prison have severe mental illness, according to a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice study. That number likely is higher than at any time since the early 1800s, before psychiatric hospitals existed in this country, says E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating treatment barriers for those with severe mental illness. Torrey says the rising number of mentally ill people in jail corresponds with a drop in the number of beds in state hospitals. In 1955 there were 559,000 patients in state mental hospitals, but by 1999 the number had dropped to fewer than 60,000. Many of those released from hospitals have new medications and other support programs to lean on. But others have found themselves in jail.

The Justice Department study doesn't break down those numbers by state, but Johnson County jail administrator Robert Johnston has seen the change. The county has increased its jail mental-health staff in recent years. The county now has one part-time and three full-time employees dedicated to mental health care at the jail compared with just one twenty-hour-a-week psychologist five years ago. But those employees are only as effective as the inmates allow. "It's like any other kind of medical care. They have the right to refuse," Johnston says.

Short of having an inmate involuntarily committed, officials can't force someone to accept psychological help.

"If somebody hits their head against the wall and then you put a helmet on them and they take the helmet off, are you supposed to put them in handcuffs?" Hicks asks.

But that's exactly what Johnson County jailers did to Rupard in November. That's how she ended up chained to the metal bed.

Rupard says the psychological help isn't offered in any meaningful way. She says she sees a psychologist only after she has threatened to kill herself, when the psychologist comes to see whether she should remain on suicide watch. Rupard is interested only in trading the blue paper uniform for an orange cloth jump suit and in getting a real blanket, so she recites what she knows they want to hear.

The court-ordered anger-management therapy Rupard attended was similarly ineffective.

Last summer, Rupard tried to have herself committed. Hartley set up an assessment at Johnson County Mental Health Center. The evaluation showed that Rupard was not a danger to herself or others, Hartley says.

That assessment is the benchmark for involuntary committals, says Carol Roeder-Esser, program specialist with Johnson County Mental Health. Roeder-Esser can't talk about Rupard's situation, but she says her associates try hard not to hospitalize people.

"We can hospitalize people if they can meet those two criteria [endangering either oneself or others]," she says.

With that lesson in mind, Rupard logged onto the CIA Web site last summer.

"I signed on as 'KC Terrorist,'" she says.

It was not the only site she visited that day on her father's computer. She also applied for a job at a Kansas City casino and visited some Internet chat rooms. And she applied for a job with the CIA as a terrorist. She said she would kill cops, parole officers and deputies.

"I was angry, and I was, like, screwing around too," she says now. "I was trying to piss off the feds."

The post earned her a visit by the FBI.

"I didn't think they'd take it seriously," she says. "They didn't take it seriously. They just had to do their procedure."

Hicks says he helped Rupard avoid punishment for the prank, assuring the FBI agents that Rupard was harmless. But Hicks then became the target of a threat he could not ignore.

"I called the parole officer and said, 'Do you want to hear a gunshot?'" Rupard recalls.

Then she lit an M60 firecracker.

In Rupard's version of the story, Hicks egged her on, telling her, "Go ahead."

Hicks says he tried to talk sense into Rupard. "She made calls to several people in the office. She was on a tear that day," Hicks remembers. "My response was 'I hope you don't have one. No, I don't want to see it. I don't want to hear it. Why don't you come in and we'll talk about it?'"

Bang.

"You couldn't tell whether it was a medium-caliber firearm or a firecracker," Hicks says. But he didn't feel threatened.

"I expressed to the investigating officer and to the DA's office that I really don't think she has the criminal intent to do anything of a criminal nature toward me," he says. "I had no fear she was going to come down here and take a shot at me."

But state policy dictates that such actions not be overlooked. So Rupard has a criminal threat charge to go with her escape charge. To avoid the possibility of a longer sentence, Rupard agreed to plead guilty in exchange for 18 months for the escape and 12 months for the criminal threat with the charges served concurrently. She was to be sentenced on January 9 for the escape and will be in court for the criminal threat charge on January 24.

And she is back in jail, the second front in her long war.

Because of her fights with police officers on the outside, Rupard believes she gets harsher treatment on the inside. More than once, she says, she's heard them say, "You fuck with us one, you fuck with us all."

She has flooded her cell by clogging the toilet with paper. She has spread shampoo on the floor and broken light-switch covers and intercoms. "I've destroyed the whole jail," she says.

But the response she receives is out of line with what other inmates experience, she says.

"It's like they expect me to have disciplinary problems," she says. "It's almost like they have fun with me. They are hyped up every time I go off.... When I got Maced, they were so fucking excited that they'd Maced me. They laughed."

Johnston won't say whether Rupard's expectation of trouble becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The corrections officers are briefed on problem inmates, and it would be irresponsible not to prepare the officers, he says. "Our job is not to judge these people. Most all the staff understand that. The staff would just as soon never have to wrestle with anybody or restrain anybody. We only react when we have to, to maintain that safety and security."

A comparison of Rupard's disciplinary records at the Johnson County jail and her record during more than a year and a half within the state prison system, however, indicates that something different happens when she's at the Johnson County jail.

Rupard's state prison record included 24 violations, including mouthing off to the corrections officers, not doing what they told her to do and standing in the way of her cell door as it closed. But nothing like the trouble she's had in Johnson County.

"I don't see any fighting. I don't see any battery," Bill Miskell, public information officer for the state prison system, says of Rupard's record.

At the Johnson County jail, Rupard's time has been marked by eight incidents of assault or battery on a law enforcement officer and two assaults on other inmates, according to information in Rupard's court file.

Rupard's file also includes a recounting of the events that led to Rupard's being chained up in November. It provides insight into her violent nature and the reaction from her jailers.

The trouble started on November 15 with another inmate's medical emergency, which led to a call for lockdown, when inmates are supposed to return to their cells. During the lockdown, Rupard became distraught when the guards wouldn't give her the asthma medicine she's allowed to have four times a day. "I had an asthma attack," Rupard says. "It was hot. They wouldn't get my inhaler, so I started kicking the door."

Rupard's outburst prompted corrections officers to move her to a padded cell, where her tantrum continued.

At about 3 p.m., officers handcuffed Rupard's arms behind her back and shackled her ankles. Though she was allowed to use her inhaler, Rupard was left in this position for nine hours, during which she wet her pants.

At midnight, Rupard was allowed to shower and sleep. The next morning, a guard took her back to her own cell but left her in handcuffs.

"I said, 'I'll be good, just unhandcuff me. I want to sleep,'" Rupard says. "I begged him."

She was told that if she was quiet for an hour the cuffs would be removed. That didn't happen.

"Fucking bitch!" she yelled at the nearest corrections officer. "Fucking ho ... I'm going to fuck you up, guard."

And to the other inmates within earshot: "Whiney-ass fucking niggers ... I'm going to rip you niggers up when I get (out) of here."

Rupard slipped out of her handcuffs and began throwing them against the wall and a window, breaking it. Jailers later found the cuffs in a tree outside.

The scene earned her a return trip to the padded cell, where she spent the day. At 10 that night, guards took her back to a regular cell, but because she threatened suicide she was put on suicide watch and changed into the blue paper uniform. She broke a light-switch cover and began to scratch her wrists with it. Refusing to hand over the switch cover, Rupard instead took off her clothes.

Corrections officers then moved her to another cell and chained her to a bunk. She was allowed to use the restroom, given breakfast and lunch and checked by a nurse, but guards essentially kept her chained to the bed for the next 17 hours. She appears to have spent another night chained to the bed before psychologist Gregg Gambone found her the next day.

Gambone couldn't believe what he saw.

"I've never seen anybody chained down like that," says Gambone, who has spent 10 years working in correctional facilities and at the time was a clinical psychologist with Johnson County Mental Health. (He recently accepted another job out of state.) "Here I see her laying facedown in a paper uniform, actually lying in a pool of her own urine, and she's got chains and hard metal handcuffs. She could have cut her face, cut her wrist with that. How in God's name am I to respond to that as a professional?"

Gambone cut a deal with corrections officers and Rupard: Rupard would consent to take Haldol, an antipsychotic medication, and the guards would allow her to go back to her cell. Haldol injections are used as rapid sedation and can take effect within an hour. However, Rupard says she has not consented to the medication. She took the medication that day but has not agreed to take it since.

Gambone alerted Miriam Rittmaster, Rupard's court-appointed attorney, who filed a motion on her behalf, asking the Johnson County jail to cease and desist cruel and unusual punishment. Judge John P. Bennett overruled the motion and did not rule on the treatment. Bennett said Rupard should pursue the allegations of cruel and unusual punishment in civil, rather than criminal, court. Rupard, however, doesn't have the financial resources to hire an attorney and file a civil suit.

Johnston says county officials are reviewing the use of a restraint chair, which they bought several years ago but never used because of publicity surrounding its abuse elsewhere.

A man died while confined in a restraint chair in Arizona. But the chair, which straps an inmate in a seated position, is used effectively in Wyandotte and Douglas counties in Kansas and Jackson County in Missouri, jail officials in those counties say.

For now, Johnson County's policy calls for varying levels of restraint, starting with handcuffs and escalating to a four-point restraint, as in Rupard's case, and even a five-point restraint in which the head is restrained as well. The length of time someone is restrained has no absolute limit, Johnston says. "If they are not ready to calm down and act correctly, it's foolish to let them back out and have to do it again."

He says it is rare for someone to be chained longer than a couple of hours.

But Rupard's case is unusual.

Prosecutors rejected her request for an alternative to prison this time around. "I had suggested perhaps a halfway house, that type of thing," Rittmaster says. "The prosecutor did not feel there were any programs that would help her. The prosecutor has unilaterally decided the only thing left for her was prison. I'm not sure what kind of help she's going to get in prison."

Brenda Cameron, assistant district attorney, says Rupard has more than used up her chances.

"The courts have offered her a lot of alternatives to jail," she says, "different probations and treatments and things of that sort, time and time again. She hasn't opted to follow along with that, which has left the judges with not much option."

There is no question that Rupard's situation is mostly her own fault. She hasn't kept her mouth shut when she should have and has actively sought conflict.

But even her parole officer, Hicks, who is a self-described proponent of the "hot stove" school of justice -- you touch it, you get burned -- thinks psychological attention would be preferable to jail for Rupard. "I'm not big on counseling or psychiatry or that stuff," he says. "But something ain't quite baked up there. It's a sad story, because I really don't see her as a threat."

"The law apparently hasn't been written to help people like my sister," John Rupard says. "The law is to incarcerate and punish people, not to help them."

Rupard says she is determined to break the cycle she is in. She is dedicated enough, she says, even to take medication, if that's what a psychological diagnosis calls for. "I don't want to have to. I don't want to be medicated to make my decisions. I don't want to have a crutch like that," she says. She claims her temper is not what it once was, despite her continued troubles in jail. "When I'm on the street I have control over it. I can walk away. Here I can't."

When she gets out this time, she swears it will be different. She will make it through parole. She will keep a job. And when she no longer has a parole officer or a system to answer to, she will move far away. Maybe to Southern California or New York. Somewhere far away from Johnson County and its cops.

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