Makeshift shooting range, escape tunnel found on northern NM compound | KOB 4

Makeshift shooting range, escape tunnel found on northern NM compound

Ryan Laughlin
August 17, 2018 09:51 PM

AMALIA, N.M. – It's been months since a U.S. Army veteran couple bought a 10-acre plot in rural northern New Mexico with plans of building a getaway cottage.


Instead, two men on a nearby plot set up a haphazard camp reminiscent of a compound in a developing nation, crossing onto Tanya and Jason Badger's property.

On Friday that compound was raided by a Taos County Sheriff's Office response team, leading to the discovery of 11 starving children and three women living in "filthy" conditions. Authorities were looking for a Georgia boy abducted by his father in December.

The boy wasn't there, but the father was arrested, along with another man accused of harboring a fugitive.

"Whenever a law enforcement officer tells you it was a rough day at work...this was one of those rough days at work," TCSO Spokesperson Jason Rael said.

MORE: Gunfire heard 'on a regular basis' at property where kids, child abductor found

On Sunday KOB got a closer look at the makeshift compound, and the conditions its occupants were enduring.

Bullet casings covered parts of the ground on the site, and an improvised shooting range was set up behind a barrier of shattered glass.

Also on the site was a 150-foot "escape tunnel," as described by the Badgers. The tunnel's exit was across property lines.

The kids were living in these conditions for months, authorities say. The landowners said Lucas Morton and Siraj Wahhaj – the father of the missing boy – set up camp sometime after Christmas last year.


For months the Badgers have been trying to get Morton and Wahhaj to either sell the land or kick them out. But their attempts failed; an eviction notice was dismissed in court in June.

But now that's the least of the Badgers' worries.  

"Where else could he (be), if not with them? Where is he?" Tanya Badger asked, referring to the missing 3-year-old from Georgia, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. "It's not fair, you know. Kids can't fight for themselves."

A tactical team with TCSO overtook the heavily armed compound Friday, though the Badgers said they believe it should've been a lot sooner. 

The couple said that back in February they believe they saw the still-missing 3-year-old months before learning from Georgia news report that he was abducted. When that discovery was made, they reported it to Taos County deputies. 

TCSO officials said they didn't have enough hard proof to go into the compound, even though the site was technically there illegally. Instead, they began surveilling the property to spot the boy. 

When that didn't work, Jason Badger told KOB he was approached and asked if he would wear a hidden camera to take part in the ongoing recon mission. 

He didn't take that request lightly. 

"When you think about it that's f***ing b***s***," he said. "You ask me to do it when you're afraid to send cops up there. You tell me all this, (that) they're radicals, (that) they've got guns, you're afraid to go up there, but you ask me to go up there and do it?"

TCSO officials wouldn't comment on whether or not they asked a private citizen to wear surveillance equipment, citing the ongoing investigation. 

The Badgers said they want more resources dedicated to searching the property. 

"At this point, with the resources that we had, we did a thorough search of that compound," Rael said. 

However, hours after Rael said that to KOB, the Badgers provided us with photos of more items still at the compound on Sunday, including firearms and a tactical vest. They also said they spotted video cameras and a laptop still at the site. 


Ryan Laughlin

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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