In January 2000, John Joe Grey was pulled over by the police who found him in possession of illegal firearms and plans to blow up a bridge. He resented the interest of the police and responded as anyone would. He bit the arresting officer. Grey was arrested and released on bail. One of the bail conditions was that neither he nor a member of his family could possess firearms. They did what any reasonable family could do when confronted with such unreasonable circumstances – they armed themselves to the teeth and took refuge inside a fortified compound preparing for a confrontation with the police.
Their plans sparked a flurry of media interest especially when Chuck Norris helicoptered himself in and offered his unique services. But not even Chuck Norris could shake the resolve of the Greys and they opted to stay put. The media lost quickly interest when it was evident there wasn’t going to be a siege, and the police decided that the dangers of entering the compound outweighed the benefits. Fourteen years later, the Greys are still there and now the subject of a documentary film – America’s Fugitive Family.
John Joe Grey and his family are the type of freakshow Channel 4 loves. Grey is a prophet in his own mind. At one point he compares himself to Noah and another time he claims that he and his family are a Christian army who are prepared to die for what they believe in. What that entails exactly is hard to pin down. It’s definitely something to do with Jesus and also the oppressive government. Obama is doing Satan’s will and the only thing you’re taught in the American public school system is sex education and how to be a homo. No wonder they’re falling behind in the PISA rankings.
The family’s paranoia is farcical. They believe themselves to be the subject of a major operation spanning not just the police, but the government and international bankers. The irony is that not even local law enforcement have any interest in what they’re doing. But given that this paranoia manifests itself in firearms and knife training, it’s no joke, and inevitably the filmmakers find themselves implicated in the imaginary witch hunt and find themselves expelled from the compound. Unfortunately, they don’t really get the chance to sink their teeth in to the subject matter before this point, but it doesn’t really matter. They got some gawkworthy shots of the family acting like weirdos and that’s all that counts.
America’s Fugitive Family will be broadcast on Channel 4 on the 10th December at 10.00pm.