Sarah Palin’s family was thrust into the national spotlight in 2008 when Sen. John McCain picked her to be his GOP running mate in the campaign for president.
Now, after years of attention that accompanied Palin’s role as a popular and controversial conservative advocate and media personality, the family is once again under scrutiny, this time after her eldest son was arrested on suspicion of breaking into his parents’ home and beating his father.
Painful new details emerged Monday about the arrest of Track Palin, who at one point pleaded with his father to shoot him, according to a police affidavit. The document said his father, Todd, was brandishing a gun but refused to shoot.
After his arrest Saturday, Track Palin, 28, was charged with first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief. He remains in custody. The police affidavit, contained in a court filing, describes a chaotic scene at the family’s home in Wasilla, Alaska, when Palin confronted his father over a truck he wanted to pick up.
Todd Palin had told him not to come to the home because Track Palin had been drinking and taking pain medication, according to the affidavit and charging documents.
“Track told him he was [going to] come anyway to beat his ass,” according to an affidavit filed by Wasilla Police Officer Adam LaPointe.
When Todd Palin, 53, confronted his son at the door with a pistol, the younger Palin broke a window and entered the house and started beating his father, according to court filings. Palin pushed his father to the ground and hit him repeatedly on the head, the documents say.
Sarah Palin called police at 8:30 p.m. and said her son was “freaking out and was on some type of medication.”
When police arrived, they saw Todd and Sarah Palin fleeing the house in separate vehicles, Todd Palin with blood running down his face and Sarah Palin looking “visibly upset,” the documents say.
Police confronted Track Palin in the home. He called them “peasants” and told them to lay down their weapons, according to the documents. Eventually, Palin left the house and was placed in handcuffs.
He told police that when he arrived at the house, his father aimed his gun at him, and he urged his father to shoot him several times before entering the house, according to the documents.
When policed interviewed Todd Palin, he was bleeding from multiple cuts to his head, and one ear was discharging liquid, the documents say. There is no record of an interview with Sarah Palin; the Wasilla Police Department did not respond to a question about whether its officers interviewed her.
A judge set Track Palin’s bail at $5,000. He remains in custody at the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility in Palmer, Alaska. Palmer Dist. Atty. Roman J. Kalytiak said that if Palin remains in custody, his office must take the case to the grand jury within 10 days. If Palin pays bail and is released, prosecutors will have 20 days to go before the grand jury.
An attorney for Sarah and Todd Palin declined to comment on the case.
“Given the nature of actions addressed ... by law enforcement and the charges involved, the Palins are unable to comment further,” John Tiemessen said in a statement. “They ask that the family’s privacy is respected during this challenging situation just as others dealing with a struggling family member would also request.”
Todd Palin declined to comment about the incident, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
“We’re fine. We’re fine,” he said when asked whether he sought medical treatment.
Sarah Palin has not commented publicly about the encounter. On social media, she has continued to offer her take on current events and politics.
The incident is the latest controversy involving the Palins since McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008. At the time, she had been governor of Alaska for less than two years and was a relative unknown in the Lower 48 states. Just days after Palin was named as the vice presidential nominee, she acknowledged that her unmarried teenage daughter Bristol was pregnant.
In the aftermath of the campaign, she faced criticism over her behavior and her spending habits.
In 2014, the family was involved in a drunken brawl on Todd Palin’s birthday, though no one was charged. Track Palin, shirtless and bleeding, “appeared heavily intoxicated and he acted belligerent” during his initial interaction with police officers, according to an Anchorage Police Department report.
In January 2016, Track Palin was arrested on suspicion of punching his girlfriend at the same Wasilla home. He pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm while intoxicated and took a plea deal that resulted in other charges being dismissed. His girlfriend later filed for custody of their child and sought a protective order against him.
At the time of that arrest, Sarah Palin was campaigning for then-candidate Donald Trump during the GOP primaries and caucuses. She alluded to her son’s arrest during a campaign rally, suggesting that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from a military deployment in Iraq.
She described soldiers “who come home from the battlefield bringing new battles with them [and] coming back different than when they left for the war zone.”
“When my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate to other families who feel these ramifications of PTSD,” she said, before accusing then-President Obama of not respecting veterans.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin frequently spoke of her son’s service in the military. He was stationed in Iraq during most of the general election campaign.
McCain’s selection eventually proved unpopular among some conservatives who questioned whether Palin had the experience and knowledge to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
But Palin’s folksy personality and colloquialisms strongly resonated with the party’s base, and she became a powerful force in national GOP politics after her and McCain’s loss. She resigned as governor the following year but was a frequent presence in the media and on the campaign trail as a forceful critic of President Obama and an early supporter of the tea party. Palin sparred with the GOP establishment, and her endorsement swung Republican primary races and drew dollars.
She was the subject of several books as well as a documentary by Stephen K. Bannon. She starred in a television show and flirted with a presidential run in 2012. Her prominence has waned since then, but she remains a popular draw among socially conservative voters.
Todd and Sarah Palin met in high school and wed in 1988. He worked in oil production on the North Slope of Alaska and as a commercial fisherman. Todd Palin, a champion snowmobile racer, liked to refer to himself as the “first dude” when his wife was governor.