COARSEGOLD – As everyone waits to see what will be decided in U.S. District Court in Fresno on Wednesday, the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino remains closed to the public.
After what has been described as an armed takeover of the casino on Thursday, Oct. 9, by the Tex McDonald faction, the hotel and casino were shut down pending a hearing scheduled for Oct. 15.
Officers from seven different law enforcement agencies have secured the property and are monitoring the comings and goings of anyone entering the area. Agencies committed to the incident include:
- Madera County Sheriff’s Office
- California Highway Patrol
- Fish & Wildlife
- Merced County Sheriff’s Office Deputies & K9 Unit
- Fresno Police Department
- Fresno County Sheriff’s Office
- California Department of Justice
- Madera County Citizens on Patrol – assisting with traffic control
There were at least 50 sworn personnel manning tribal land of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians starting at 6 p.m. last Friday. Sworn personnel will remain on site until further notice.
Those who were on site during last week’s confrontation have been ordered to appear in Federal Court at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 15, in Fresno. That hearing was prompted after armed men reportedly entered the casino and attempted to remove documents, and assaulted several security guards. A federal judge then granted an injunction filed by the Attorney General’s Office, to protect the public and employees from any further threats of violence, and closed down the property.
The parties ordered to appear in court include the Reggie Lewis faction, the Tex McDonald faction, and the Morris Reed faction.
In the meantime, all security – both armed and unarmed – have been ordered to vacate all tribal properties, including the hotel and casino, and the office compound on Road 417.
Some 1,000 employees are now without jobs, and many say they were not even contacted by their supervisors to tell them not to come to work after this incident.
No arrests were made last Thursday after the conflict, and Sheriff John Anderson says that’s because no one is really sure who is in charge. If those who pointed guns and detained people are truly tribal police, then those actions may well be legal, he said.
“These folks have all gone through elections and they all claim to be the tribal council and the tribal chairs,” Anderson said last week. “We don’t know, and we don’t have the authority to say ‘you are and you aren’t,’ so maybe somebody can figure this out, and I think that should be done in court.”