“We must learn to know, love, and join our place even more than we love our own ideas. People who can agree that they share a commitment to the landscape – even if they are otherwise locked in struggle with each other – have at least one deep thing to share.” – Gary Snyder
Among all the federally-managed lands in the West, Malheur Wildlife Refuge perhaps best represents the long history of struggle between private ranching interests and both the environment and the public good (see The Backstory – Settling and Unsettling the West, below).
It also has become an example of cooperation between competing interests – among ranchers, environmentalists, Native Americans, anglers, birders – to develop a long-term management plan that meets all needs and still preserves the land and its resources for future generations.
Into this exemplar of cooperation between people who have competing ideas but a common love for the land, came a band of militant outsiders intent on disrupting the peace and imposing their own ideas on the local community.
[See Addendum 1: Sportsmen & Birders Unite Against Bundy Boys.]
[See Addendum 2: The Anti-Defamation League’s “Anatomy of a Standoff”, which describes the 30 principle participants in the Malheur occupation.]
[See Addendum 3: Federal Appellate Panel Rules that Un-Permitted Grazing is Trespass and Castigates District Court Judge for Citing BLM and USFS Employees for Contempt.]
[See Addendum 4: Profile of a “Patriot” – Ryan Payne, Security Organizer or Loose Canon.]
[See Addendum 5: Department of Homeland Security Predicted Sovereign Citizen Terrorism After Bundy Ranch Standoff.]
[See Addendum 6: Occupation Timeline, for the up-to-date information.]
[See Addendum 7: Arrests, Indictments, Investigation & Followup]
[See Addendum 8: Plea Deals & Trials]
[See Addendum 9: The Trial, The Verdict, The Reaction]
[See Addendum 10: Ringleader & Sniper Trainer Ryan Payne’s Attempt to Withdraw Guilty Plea]
[See Addendum 11: Bunkerville Indictments & Trials]
[See Addendum 12: Malheur Trial #2]
For the Prequel to this incident, see Cliven Bundy – Folk Hero or Scapegoat?
The philosophical sources of the new Range Wars and associated movements is explored in The New Anti-Federalists: The Wellspring of the Bundy Sagebrush Insurrection
To understand the psychology behind such mass delusions, see Propaganda, the Collective Unconscious, and Mass Movements.
How it Started
On Saturday, January 2, 2016, to start the new year, approximately 300 people marched through the small town of Burns, Oregon in support of the well-known Hammond family, passing by the Hammonds home and the sheriff’s office. The event was organized by 3 Percent Idaho, a “patriot” group which takes its name from the apocryphal 3% of American colonists who participated in the Revolutionary War (actually, 10% of the American colonists fought against the British, and 40%-45% supported the war).
Ranching family patriarch Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, lit fires in 2001 and 2006 on public land, they claim, to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their winter cattle feed from wildfires.
A jury thought otherwise, and found the two guilty of arson of federal property. The first fire, according to witnesses, including a young Hammond family member and a professional hunting guide, was lit to cover up evidence of a significant illegal deer kill (poaching), while the second put wildland firefighters and nearby campers at risk and was lit during a burn ban, requiring the firefighters to abandon their work.
Michael Robert Hogan, a sympathetic conservative Christian judge appointed by George H. W. Bush, determined in the 2012 trial that the statutory mandatory minimum 5-year sentence “would shock the conscience” and violate the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and ordered the Hammonds imprisoned for sharply reduced terms of three months for the elder and one year for the son, which both men served. Federal prosecutors successfully appealed the reduced sentences and, in an October 2015 re-sentencing, the pair was ordered to return to prison on January 4, 2016 to finish their five-year sentences.
An attempted Hammond appeal to the US Supreme Court was turned down without comment.
In a separate 2014 civil judgment, the Hammonds were ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the US government. The pair paid half that amount immediately and the remaining $200,000 in December 2015. After losing the appeal, the Hammonds said they would turn themselves in and serve their time.
[For the backstory of years of abuse of grazing regulations and threats to federal land managers, see the section below: The Hammond Family.]
Armed Militants & Wannabe Revolutionaries
During the protest march in Burns, in the southeast high desert country, a small armed splinter group slipped away and broke into the closed-for-the-holidays Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters 30 miles outside of town. They threatened to stay until justice is done for the Hammonds and federal lands were “returned” to the local ranchers, miners and loggers. They claimed 150 participants, but reporters counted no more than 20 at any time.
The key occupiers include “I didn’t come here to shoot – I came here to die” Dylan (Capt. Moroni) Anderson; “we’re planning on staying here for years” Ammon Bundy; “I am 100% willing to lay my life down to fight against tyranny in this country” Jon Ritzheimer (who was the subject of an FBI warning to police for his orchestration of anti-Muslim harassment and possible terrorism); “Sen. John McCain should be arrested and tried for treason” Blaine Cooper (aka Stanley Blaine Hicks with a long felony arrest record); “whatever it takes” Brand Thornton; “I would rather die than go to prison” cowboy rancher LaVoy Finicum (who also refuses to pay grazing fees); and army vet Ryan Payne who claimed to have organized militia snipers to target federal agents during Cliven Bundy’s Nevada standoff.
Cooper was convicted of aggravated assault, a felony, in 2009, which makes it illegal for him to be carrying a gun. The leader of an Arizona group, Veterans on Patrol, accused Cooper of instigating a fistfight at the Malheur compound when the veterans group tried to enter. Cooper’s wife, who has been helping feed the occupiers, admitted that she was “kinda dragged along by my husband”.
Payne claims that the occupation was his idea.
Not only was the Refuge office emptied of employees, but the local BLM, the US Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Farm Service Agency also shuttered their offices days before the march and occupation because of threats to federal employees. The US Post Office in Burns stopped delivering mail to homes and business as a safety precaution, but remained open.
Separate Non-Profit Field Station Also Empties
On January 2, Duncan Evered was the last employee left at the Malheur Field Station, a nonprofit island within the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He had no idea his neighbors at refuge headquarters four miles away had left days earlier, warned of potential trouble. A federal law enforcement officer called and advised him to leave. When the sheriff called with the same message, he thawed out his frozen car and drove 20 miles before turning on his headlights, so as not to give notice to those he was told were armed and dangerous. He made it to Burns that night and later traveled on to a friend’s home in central Oregon.
The field station was once a Youth Civilian Conservation Job Corps camp, subsequently abandoned in 1969 by the federal government. A consortium of universities created the station in 1971, using a collection of 36 buildings as a base for research and education. In 1987, the Great Basin Society stepped in as stewards. The nonprofit owns the buildings and equipment.
Thousands of people each year spend nights at the station, including birders drawn to the annual spring migration and hunters looking to cash in on their fall waterfowl tags. Here, they get a cheap and conveniently located bed, a hot breakfast and lessons in birding, astronomy, regional history and art.
The two apparent leaders of the occupation, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are two of the sons of Cliven Bundy, who staged an armed standoff with the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the seizure of his cattle for $1.1 million in 20 years of unpaid grazing fees and consequent fines. Other veterans of that event were also among those at the Refuge.
In a video, Ammon Bundy said their goal was to turn the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge into a “base place for patriots from all over the country to come and to be housed here and to live here. And we’re going to be staying here for several years.” Oddly, they arrived with lots of guns but little food.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said that the group of armed protesters came to town under false pretenses. “These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
In response to the armed takeover, the Burns School District cancelled all school for the week. Brandon Curtiss, president of 3 Percent Idaho, which organized the protest march, said the occupiers don’t represent his group and distanced himself from their action, as did the Pacific Patriot Network (a northwest patriot umbrella organization), the Oathkeepers (a paramilitary group that participated in the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff), and Bob Wright (a commander of the New Mexico Militia).
The Hammond family, through their attorney, has also said that the occupiers don’t speak for them. In a letter to the Sheriff dated December 11, 2015, and made public by the Hammond lawyer:
Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone in his group/organization speaks for the Hammond Family, Dwight Hammond or Steven Hammond. In addition, I wish to report to you that, as recently ordered by the District Court, District of Oregon, Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond intend to voluntarily report to the designated federal facility on January 4, 2016, as required.
In an online statement, Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of Oathkeepers, a “patriot” group of current and former military and law enforcement officers pledging not to obey orders which they believe violate the United States Constitution, wrote:
We cannot force ourselves or our protection on people who do not want it. Dwight and Steven Hammond have made it clear, through their attorney, that they just want to turn themselves in and serve out their sentence. And that clear statement of their intent should be the end of the discussion on this. No patriot group or individual has the right or the authority to force an armed stand off on this family, or around them, against their wishes. You cannot help someone who does not want your help, and who are not willing and ready to take a hard stand themselves.”
Rhodes went on to explain:
We went to Bundy Ranch after the Bundy family directly asked for help in their strong stand, and we went there specifically to prevent them from being “Waco’d” after we saw clear preparation and intent by the Feds to use military trained snipers and Special Forces veteran mercenaries against cowboys and their families.
Likewise, the miners in the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon, and the miners in Lincoln, Montana asked for our help and we went there after seeing a pattern of behavior by the BLM of intentionally burning occupied cabins, drawing guns on miners, etc. that caused us to be concerned for the miners’ physical safety, along with evidence that BLM agents intended to use force to remove the miners from their claims without due process.
And in Ferguson, Missouri, we asked shop owners and residents if they wanted our protection, and only after they said “yes” did we deploy, rifles in hand, to guard them against deadly arsonists and violent looters. Without their consent, we would have had no right to go onto their rooftops.
And just this year, in Idaho, our Idaho Oath Keepers joined with Idaho Three Percenters and other patriots to stand on the front lawn of a veteran who the VA had decreed “unfit to handle his own affairs” and therefore prohibited from owning firearms. …
All indicators were that the Bundy’s were at risk of being killed in a Ruby Ridge or Waco type incident. And that is why we went (along with many other groups and individuals) after the Bundy family directly asked for help. And because the whole Bundy family, and many of their cowboy friends and neighbors were willing to take a hard stand, with the support of veterans and patriots, they prevailed, the Feds blinked, and backed off.
That was a clear win for Team Liberty, while maintaining the moral high ground in the eyes of the great majority of patriotic Americans – which is exactly why the Feds backed off. They knew they had overstepped, that the “optics” were bad, and they had severely underestimated the resolve and resistance, and could not win without using overwhelming military force, and they knew that if they tried to use that military force – as many leftists were screaming for them to do – the military would split at least in half, and many or most of the current serving trigger pullers in the Marine Corps and Army infantry would have sided with the resistance – joining all of us pissed off veterans – in the resulting civil war.
In the Hammond case, there is no clear and present danger of the family being mass murdered, there is no stand off, and the family has no intent of starting one…We must respect that choice. …
Those who intend to try to force this into some form of modern “Lexington Green” or “Concord Bridge” against the wishes of the Hammonds and their neighbors need to take a hard look at the Founders’ example and their wisdom. The Founders, even after the Boston Massacre, did not immediately take up arms and fight. They gave the Crown and Parliament plenty of rope to hang themselves and show their true face to the colonists, and drive more Americans over to the Patriot cause.
The patriots did not fire on the King’s troops until General Gage ordered his men to march on Lexington and Concord to seize Hancock and Adams, and to confiscate guns, cannon, powder, and food supplies. In other words, the patriot leadership had the discipline and wisdom to maneuver Gage into attempting wholesale gun confiscation. And that was the spark that fully justified armed resistance in they eyes of the greatest number of Americans at the time.
By doing so, they retained the moral high ground, while also engaging the King’s troops out in patriot dominated territory, where they were strong, well organized, and vastly outnumbered the Red Coats, and thus they kicked their ass all the way back to Boston. They poked Gage into vastly overstepping (and “stepping on his dick” as we would say today) and by doing so, they started the Revolution off with a win on all fronts – a military victory, a moral victory, and a morale victory. THAT is how you kick off a fight. … And that is how you start off a Revolution.
All of you who are impatient and itching for a fight, put your thinking caps on, and use your heads. Keep your cool, and don’t worry, the fight will come to you soon enough. Obama, and the other anti-gun idiot politicians, such as the Governor of CT, will not be able to resist the temptation to attempt to violate our right to bear arms by executive decree, such as barring anyone put on no-fly list and other “government watch lists” from owning guns – which would include me…
Clearly, their intent is to eventually put all of you “dangerous” veterans, patriots, and constitutionalists on such watch lists, designate you as someone who is barred from owning guns, and then use that to disarm you, one at a time. And they actually think we will just roll over and let them do that. …
Let Obama and the other hoplophobes [an invented term to describe those who fear guns] step on their dicks, with both feet, with cleats on. And organize local resistance, to help gun owners, like the old vet in Idaho, who are willing to take a hard stand, and put your muscle behind that hard stand, on the critical issue of guns, IN YOUR OWN COMMUNITY (the three most important questions you have to answer are “who’s on your buddy team, who’s on your fire-team, who’s on your squad”).
Law Enforcement Takes Wait & See Approach
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward’s assessment that “These men came to Harney County…to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States” was spot on.
Though the Bundy clan and other similar “constitutionalists” claim that the only legitimate law is the county sheriff, this sheriff does not stand with the militant occupiers, for he understands their intent and ultimate goal. For that reason, the militants are ignoring his pleas to go home.
On Monday, January 4 (day 3), Ammon Bundy claimed that an unnamed county official invited his group to stage the occupation, and that local ranchers were supporting them with supplies. He put out an on-line request for “snacks and socks” to be sent to them, of all things, through the US Postal Service.
The same day, the FBI announced that they will be the lead law enforcement agency responding to the occupation, and will be taking a low-key approach in collaboration with the county sheriff and state police.
On Tuesday, January 5 (day 4), Ammon Bundy said that the group won’t leave until ranchers, loggers, farmers and other private landowners have wrested full control of the reserve’s tens of thousands of acres. He also said he doesn’t foresee ending the occupation unless the community signals they are no longer welcome.
The same day, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a statement: “Although the FBI is the lead agency responding to the situation, my top priority is the safety of the people of Harney County and the city of Burns. The Oregon State Police has enhanced its presence in the area, augmenting local and federal public safety resources and assisting with community outreach. I look for a swift resolution that allows Harney County life to return to normal.”
On Wednesday, January 6 (day 5), a Burns Town Hall meeting, facilitated by Sheriff Ward, brought 300 local residents who were allowed to share their feelings and concerns. Many, including the Sheriff, expressed support for some of the issues raised by the occupiers but the overwhelming majority wanted them to leave peacefully, and there were suggestions for a town delegation to accompany the Sheriff to the Refuge and ask the armed militants to go home. One rancher said he’d round up 100 men to ride in on horseback if that would help.
That same day, Charlotte Rodrique, the leader of the Burns Paiute Indians said that the armed protesters occupying the wildlife refuge should go home. “The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here.” Rodrique, who is the tribal chair for the Burns Paiute, said the tribe used land in what is now the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and accused the occupiers of “desecrating” sacred sites. The Paiute had lived in that territory for 13 centuries.
The tribe consists of about 350 individuals living on the 13,700-acre Burns Paiute Reservation somewhat north of the town of Burns. The reservation is separate from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but the Paiute consider the Refuge part of their ancestral land.
The Malheur Wildlife Refuge was once the Malheur Indian Reservation, encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres set aside for the “roving bands”. After settler encroachment and an Indian uprising, the Paiute were forcibly removed to Washington territory, and the US Army – in a foretaste of today’s occupation – was reluctant to remove the trespassing ranchers.
Now the Northern Paiute have been reduced to 760 acres just north of Burns, and the Burns Paiute Tribe has been fighting the federal government for years over increased fishing and land use restrictions in the area, but they find the Oregon militia takeover counterproductive, unwanted interference by ignorant interlopers brandishing guns, not the method the tribe endorses.
The county residents similarly don’t like the federal government telling them how to live their lives, but neither do they want a band of out-of-state interlopers speaking for them.
Ammon Bundy and his gang ignore the local sentiment and insist that the wildlife refuge was somehow taken from the ranchers who built a life in this part of Oregon. That is not true.
Malheur National Wildlife Reservation
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908 by former rancher and then President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Roosevelt set aside ‘unclaimed’ government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds”. The newly established “Lake Malheur Reservation” was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi. It was created out of land that nobody else wanted.
In the late 1880s, plume hunters decimated North American bird populations in pursuit of feathers for the hat industry. Hunters targeted large flocks of nesting birds and shorebirds, killing them indiscriminately and orphaning chicks. Eventually, the large numbers of nesting birds on Malheur Lake were discovered and destroyed.
In 1908, wildlife photographers William L. Finley and Herman T. Bohlman discovered that most of the white herons (egrets) on Malheur Lake had been killed in 1898 by these plume hunters, and after 10 years the white heron population had not recovered. With backing from the Oregon Audubon Society, Finley and Bohlman proposed the establishment of a bird reservation to protect the birds which used Malheur, Mud, and Harney lakes.
Malheur, which means misfortune in French, was named by a French-Canadian fur trapper who led a large expedition to the area in 1826. He found little food and few fur-bearing animals. More than 75 years later, it was one of the nation’s first sanctuaries designated in what would become a federal system of 563 refuges.
The Malheur Refuge now encompasses 187,757 acres of wildlife habitat, including 120,000 acres of wetlands, and hosts more than 320 bird species (out of only 800 in the entire US). The 65,000 acre Blitzen Valley was purchased in 1935 from the Swift Meatpacking Corp with funds from duck stamp sales and New Deal monies, and added to the refuge to secure water rights for Malheur and Mud Lake (see “False Grievances & Revisionist History” below for the history of ranching in the refuge).
With the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, the refuge was able to begin major improvements. In 1935, the CCC constructed most of the infrastructure in the Blitzen Valley, including the Center Patrol Road that travels through the center of the refuge, and many of the 13 historic buildings, including the one occupied by the protesters. The 14,000 acre Double-O unit was bought from a livestock company in 1942 and provides important shorebird habitat, as well as waterfowl nesting areas. No ranchers were ever displaced by the creation of the Refuge.
Malheur Refuge is situated within the Harney Basin in southeastern Oregon. Located in the Northern Great Basin, this portion of the State is lightly populated, generally arid with cold winters, and characterized by wide open spaces.
The Refuge constitutes a small percentage of the Northern Great Basin’s total acreage but is a tremendously important font of wildlife habitat. The Refuge represents a crucial stop along the Pacific Flyway and offers resting, breeding, and nesting habitat for hundreds of migratory birds and other wildlife. Many of the species migrating through or breeding here are highlighted as priority species in national bird conservation plans.
The Harney Basin is a closed drainage basin in southeastern Oregon at the northwestern corner of the Great Basin. One of the least populated areas of the contiguous United States, it is located largely in northern Harney County, bounded on the north and east by the Columbia Plateau, and on the south and west by a volcanic plain. The basin encompasses an area of 1,490 square miles (almost a million acres) in the watershed of freshwater Malheur Lake and saline-alkaline Harney Lake.
On the official Malheur Refuge website, under the caption, “Why Is the Refuge Closed?” is this note: “The Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that an unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments.”
Beginning in 2010, ranchers, tribal members, conservation groups, community business owners, and state and federal agencies joined together to hash out an official conservation plan for the Harney Basin that would consider all parties’ needs. After three years of work, the refuge adopted a 779-page long-term management plan in 2013. These groups have continued to work together to implement this plan, which includes one of the biggest wetland restoration efforts ever undertaken.
Nancy Langston, an environmental historian and author of Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed, a history of Lake Malheur, said “Malheur had done more work to listen and help its community than any other federal refuge out there… And then this.”
The armed occupation of Malheur has interrupted important habitat restoration work that must be completed before spring migration – when hundreds of thousands of birds descend on the area’s vast wetlands, says Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s disturbed the delicate harmony that so many stakeholders built over the last several years – a cultural ecosystem as fragile as the natural ecology of the arid high desert basin.
The Backstory – Settling and Unsettling the West
Early in the history of the country, the government took over land (from Native Americans and Mexicans) in its mission of Manifest Destiny, which was then distributed to citizens and railroad corporations for farming and economic growth. As the United States expanded westward, the land was increasingly inhospitable, including the Rockies and the deserts of Nevada and Utah. By the end of the 19th century, a new focus was placed on conserving the land, with Yellowstone becoming the first national park in 1872. At that point, very few (white) people lived in the western territories.
Since the beginning of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency in 1801, when the United States extended from Maine to Georgia with land claims west to the Mississippi River, the US government has acquired, through Indian dispossession, conquest, treaty or purchase, nearly 1.8 billion acres of land (out of 2.27 billion total land acres, or 79% of the nation’s current territory). Today the US government owns 640 million acres or 28% of the land within its boundaries, having given away or sold a full half of the entire national landscape (65% of the acquired land).
Here is a four-minute video history of the expansion of federal lands to the west:
Over the course of the 20th century, the government’s emphasis shifted away from releasing the land to private citizens and toward managing it itself. The passage of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act made that reform concrete, keeping the land as the property of the government. After the federal government’s policy change, there was a push from some in the West, including governors and members of Congress, to shift control from the federal to the state or local governments.
The first Sagebrush Rebellion occurred in the early 20th century, when western livestock, mineral and timber interests were angered at the re-designation of portions of the public domain into the national forests, with regulations on grazing, mining and logging. Ranchers, miners and loggers were required to pay a small fee to access the relevant resources that once they simply harvested for free.
These special interests harassed rangers and threatened to rebel against the nation-state, and they sought test cases to undercut the federal agency’s regulatory authority. They found them when Colorado cattleman Fred Light and California shepherd Pierre Grimaud were caught illegally grazing their herds on national forest land. The Colorado legislature even paid all Light’s legal expenses in hopes of proving its point that states, not the federal government, had sovereignty over the public lands within their borders. In May 1911, a highly conservative Supreme Court disagreed, ruling unanimously in the Forest Service’s favor.
In Light vs. US and US vs. Grimaud, the Supreme Court asserted that the public lands were, in fact, public; that federal ownership of them was indisputable; and that Congress, through a series of legislative acts, had granted the Executive Branch, and by extension the federal land management agencies, administrative authority to manage these acres in accordance with relevant rules and regulations.
There were outbreaks of rebellion in the 1920s, ‘40s and ‘50s. During the Reagan and Bush administrations, fueled by vitriolic talk-show disdain for Washington, Nevada county commissioners crashed bulldozers through Forest Service fences to claim “ownership”. Elsewhere, ranger offices were firebombed and agency equipment vandalized.
The Second Sagebrush Rebellion was a movement during the 1970s and 1980s that sought major changes to federal land control, use and disposal policy in the American West, where, in 13 western states, federal land holdings include between 20% and 85% of a state’s area.
According to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, the federal government owns 27.4% of all US land. But the vast majority of that territory is concentrated in a handful of Western states. The federal government controls 84.9% of Nevada, 64.9% of Utah, 61.9% of Idaho, 61.2% of Alaska, 52.9% of Oregon and 48.1% of Wyoming.
Supporters of this movement wanted more state and local control over these lands, if not outright transfer of them to state and local authorities and/or privatization. Since much of the land in question is sagebrush steppe, supporters adopted the name Sagebrush Rebellion. The sentiment survives into the 21st century with pressure from some individual citizens, politicians, and organized groups, especially with respect to livestock grazing, mineral extraction, logging, and other economic development.
The Constitution, in Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2, provides that “Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.” Moreover, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Kleppe v. New Mexico (1976) that this constitutional provision provides that “the power over the public land thus entrusted to Congress is without limitations”. The federal government may own land, it may enact regulations governing that land, and it may do with its own land as it chooses, regardless of whether that land is within the borders of a state.
An extension of the controversy of state vs. federal powers which goes back to the Constitutional Convention, Sagebrush Rebels did not appreciate so heavy a federal presence in the West. Republican Ronald Reagan declared himself a Sagebrush Rebel in an August 1980 campaign speech in Salt Lake City, telling the crowd, “I happen to be one who cheers and supports the Sagebrush Rebellion. Count me in as a rebel.”
The National Wilderness Preservation System grew out of recommendations of a Kennedy administration Presidential Commission, the Outdoor Recreational Resources Review Commission chaired by Laurence S. Rockefeller, whose 1962 report suggested legislation to protect recreational resources in a “national system of wild and scenic rivers”, a national wilderness system, a national trails system, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and recreation areas administered by then-existing public lands agencies beyond National Parks and National Monuments (both of which are administered in the Department of the Interior by the National Park Service).
Much of the western wildland was sagebrush, which some wanted to use for grazing, off-road vehicle use and other development instead of wilderness conservation. These “rebels” urged that, instead of designating more federal wilderness protection, some or much of the land be granted to states or private parties.
In 2010, the Utah legislature asserted that it would use eminent domain to take over national monuments, grasslands and forests, believing, as did the Colorado legislature a century ago, that its sovereignty superseded the federal government’s. Four years later, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy declared federal sovereignty null and void, refused to pay his grassland-leasing fees, and took up arms to face down the feds. His sons’ occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is but the latest in a long line of such confrontations.
Indigenous Rights & Wrongs
The lands of southeastern Oregon were home to the Northern Paiute Indians for 1300 years prior to white settler encroachment. Their ancestral lands included over 52 thousand square miles – more than 33 million acres.
In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant set aside Malheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute and “all the roving and straggling bands in Eastern and Southeastern Oregon, which can be induced to settle there”. That lasted only seven years. It was terminated in 1879, after the so-called Bannock War, a brief uprising of native tribes after settlers continued to graze cattle on the best lands of the reservation and the Army refused to prevent the trespass.
General William S. Harney (1800 – 1889), namesake of Oregon’s Harney County, where Malheur is located, was a brutal Indian fighter who nevertheless came to distrust the US government’s ability to stand up to settler pressure. “The Indians have never broken a treaty; the government of the United States has never kept one,” he said in the twilight of his career.
As explained by Peter d’Errico, former staff attorney in Dinebeiina Nahiilna Be Agaditahe Navajo Legal Services (1968-1970) in Shiprock, and a consulting attorney on indigenous issues:
Bundy was at the heart of a similar standoff in 2014, when he chased away federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangers who, acting on a court order, tried to confiscate 500 cattle he had been grazing without a permit since 1993. The government backed down and called off the confiscation effort.
Western Shoshone National Council Chief Raymond Yowell had no such luck in 2002 when he tried to prevent armed BLM rangers from confiscating his cattle. Chief Yowell had quit paying grazing fees in 1984, after the BLM could not produce any proof that the lands in question were “public” rather than Western Shoshone.
After auctioning Yowell’s cattle, the BLM sent him a bill for unpaid grazing fees and fines. When Yowell told them he was retired and his cattle were his only income, the BLM garnished his social security check.
In 2011, Yowell undertook a pro se lawsuit against the BLM. When the district court judge enjoined BLM from enforcing the alleged grazing debt, the government appealed, and, in 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court.
The 9th Circuit cited the 1985 US Supreme Court decision, US v. Dann, holding, “The Western Shoshone Tribe’s aboriginal title to the lands at issue in this case have long been settled. The United States now holds title to, and BLM now manages, those lands.”
The Dann case was decided on the basis of the federal Indian “trust” doctrine. In a decision rivaling Alice in Wonderland, the Supreme Court held that the Western Shoshone no longer owned their lands because the US government had taken the lands and had paid itself $26 million “as trustee for the Tribe as the beneficiary”. As precedent for the Dann decision, the Supreme Court cited two of the three foundational Christian Discovery cases: Johnson v. McIntosh and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was named after Malheur Lake and the Malheur River, which got its name from early 19th century French trappers who said beaver furs they had cached there were stolen by Indians. The alleged theft was a “malheur” – a “misfortune” – to the French.
We don’t have a record of what the cached beaver furs were to the Indians. A windfall. Reparations. Payment for extraction of resources. What we do know is the river and the refuge are within the ancestral home of the Northern Paiute.
The initial 1872 Malheur “reservation” was as much an internment and concentration camp as anything else, getting the Indians out of the way of trade routes and white people.
The misfortune of the Paiute was to be in the way of armed and dangerous invaders intent on taking Indian lands for their own uses. The Americans invoked “Manifest Destiny” to support their policy of territorial expansion.
As Robert Miller explained in his 2006 book, Native America, Discovered and Conquered, the notion of Manifest Destiny consisted of three elements: the “special virtue” of the American people and their institutions; America’s mission to “redeem and remake” the world; and a “divine destiny” under God’s direction. Manifest Destiny, in turn, was rooted in the founding concept of Christian Discovery.
Miller cited a letter from the Oregon Provisional Emigration Society in an 1839 report to the US Congress by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Society outlined its plan “to spread civilization and Christianity among the Indians” in the “savage territory”. The House distributed 10,000 copies of the Report, and focused public discussion on the doctrine of Christian Discovery as the basis for extinguishing Indian title.
Once we understand the bigger picture and the longer history, we see that the 2016 invasion of Malheur echoes the invasion of the land in the 19th century, which itself echoes the invasion of the continent in the 15th century: a single, though complex, chain of events and thinking, all of it devoted to a way of life called “civilization and Christianity”, all of it powered by lands taken from Indigenous Peoples.
Among the first pieces of legislation passed under the US Constitution was the Northwest Ordinance, which was designed to dispose of lands the federal government held after state claims were conceded in the Northwest Territory (now Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana).
In order to encourage settlement of western lands, Congress passed the Morrell Act in 1862, granting parcels in 40-acre increments to homesteaders who could maintain a living on the land for a period of time. Congress also made huge land grants to various railroads working to complete a transcontinental rail system (and the increasing political power of the railroad barons led to a series of Supreme Court rulings establishing the notion of the corporate “person” with constitutional rights). Much of these latter grants included mineral and timber-rich lands so that the railroads could get financing to build. The theory was that the railroads would sell off the land to raise capital.
The US Land Revision Act of 1891 gave the President the authority to “set aside and reserve…any part of the public lands wholly or partly covered with timber or undergrowth, whether of commercial value or not”. However, it did not explicitly authorize the use or development of resources on the reserved lands.
The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 allowed the President to set aside forest reserves from the land in the public domain. Benjamin Harrison issued proclamations establishing 13 million acres of Forest Reserves, Grover Cleveland protected 25 million acres, and William McKinley protected 7 million acres.
The Forest Service Organic Administration Act of 1897, commonly called the “Organic Act”, signed into law by President William McKinley, was intended “to improve and protect the forest within the reservation, … securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States”. The Act granted the Secretary of the Interior the authority in rule-making and regulations, and established the purposes of timber production, watershed protection and forest protection.
Gifford Pinchot, of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Forestry, advocated for the removal of the reserves from the Interior Department to be placed under the Agriculture Department. President Roosevelt signed into law the Forest Transfer Act of 1905, which transferred 63 million acres of forest reserves to the Department of Agriculture, which applied science-based management policies. In March 1905, the Bureau of Forestry was renamed the United States Forest Service.
In 1907, a law was passed limiting the President’s authority to proclaim Forest Reserves in certain states and renamed the existing “Forest Reserves” as “National Forests”.
Ultimately, however, it turned out that much land west of the Missouri River was not ecologically suited for homesteading because of mountainous terrain, poor soils, lack of available water and other ecological barriers. By the early 20th century, the federal government held significant portions of most western states that had simply not been claimed for any use. Conservationists prevailed upon President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside lands for forest conservation and for special scientific or natural history interest. Much land still remained unclaimed even after such reserves were initially set up.
The Department of the Interior held millions of acres in the western states (with Arizona and New Mexico joining the union by 1913). President Hoover proposed to deed the surface rights to the unappropriated lands to the states in 1932, but the states complained that the lands had been overgrazed and would, in other ways, impose a burden on cash-strapped state budgets. The Bureau of Land Management was created in 1946 to manage much of that land (ironically, the same year that Cliven Bundy came into the world, as if destined to engage in a lifetime of sibling rivalry).
In the 1800s, when the Western range was essentially open to all, speculators took advantage of what appeared to be an endless supply of forage that could be utilized with minimal cost. Livestock herds grew from 9 million cows and sheep in 1870 to five times that number at the turn of the century. With the range severely crowded and depleted – and ranchers needing assurances that their forage would be protected – Congress in 1934 passed the Taylor Grazing Act, intended “to stop injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration” and “provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development”.
The Taylor Grazing Act tasked the Interior Department with creating grazing districts on unclaimed public lands and issuing grazing permits and collecting fees. It said issuance of a grazing permit is a “privilege” that shall be “safeguarded” but “shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands”.
The purpose of the BLM (which used to be regarded as the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining”) is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations”. Ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres of the 245 million acres of BLM public lands. The agency manages 221 wilderness areas, 23 national monuments and some 636 other protected areas totaling about 30 million acres. There are more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands, with energy leases generating approximately $5.4 billion in 2013, an amount divided among the Treasury, the states, and Native American groups.
According to the BLM website:
The unregulated grazing that took place before enactment of the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act caused unintended damage to soil, plants, streams, and springs. As a result, grazing management was initially designed to increase productivity and reduce soil erosion by controlling grazing through both fencing and water projects and by conducting forage surveys to balance forage demands with the land’s productivity (“carrying capacity”).
These initial improvements in livestock management, which arrested the degradation of public rangelands while improving watersheds, were appropriate for the times. But by the 1960s and 1970s, public appreciation for public lands and expectations for their management rose to a new level, as made clear by congressional passage of such laws as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. Consequently, the BLM moved from managing grazing in general to better management or protection of specific rangeland resources, such as riparian areas, threatened and endangered species, sensitive plant species, and cultural or historical objects. Consistent with this enhanced role, the Bureau developed or modified the terms and conditions of grazing permits and leases and implemented new range improvement projects to address these specific resource issues, promoting continued improvement of public rangeland conditions.
Today the BLM manages livestock grazing in a manner aimed at achieving and maintaining public land health. To achieve desired conditions, the agency uses rangeland health standards and guidelines, which the BLM developed in the 1990s with input from citizen-based Resource Advisory Councils across the West.
In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM spent $34.3 million (nearly half its total rangeland budget) on livestock grazing administration, and collected $12.1 million in grazing fees, which, in accordance with legislative requirements, are shared with state and local governments. So the American public is heavily subsidizing ranchers who use public lands for cattle forage.
In an essay for Harpers Magazine, published in 1986, the hard-bitten wilderness lover Edward Abbey called Western cattlemen “welfare parasites”. Bernard DeVoto observed in the 1940s that no rancher in his right mind wanted to own the public lands himself. That would entail responsibility and stewardship. Worse, it would mean paying property taxes. What ranchers have always wanted, and what extractive industries in general want, is private exploitation with costs paid by the public.
Various bills intended to transfer federal public lands to western states had been proposed after 1932, all failing to garner much attention, let alone action. Among key objections to such transfers were the increasing value to the federal treasury of mineral lease receipts and complaints that the “crown jewels” of the national land holdings, the National Parks, could not be managed adequately or fairly by individual states. Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks were considered to be national treasures, and few legislators would agree to turn them over to the states.
The spark that turned these complaints into a “rebellion” was the enactment in 1976 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that ended homesteading – which meant that the federal government would retain control of western public lands. The act sought to establish a system of land management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While FLPMA required the BLM to plan land use accommodating all users – specifically naming ranching, grazing, and mining – it also introduced formal processes to consider preservation of the land from those uses.
By late 1979, Orin Hatch (R-Utah) was the one legislator most interested in land transfers, after loud complaints from ranchers and oilmen from Utah, coupled with strong support from several Utah county governments. He sought to introduce a transfer bill that would get hearings and potential action. Upon advice of members of the Utah Wilderness Commission, appointed by Utah Governor Scott Matheson, Hatch agreed to leave National Parks and National Monuments in federal hands, and drafted a bill that would allow states to apply for control over selected parcels. With 16 cosponsors, he introduced the bill in 1979, and again in 1981. Partly because Hatch’s bill dealt with major objections to previous bills, news outlets for the first time covered the bill as if it had a serious chance of passing. This provided a huge morale boost to long-aggrieved public land users (other than conservationists), and started a two-year newspaper, radio, and television fight for the legislation.
Ultimately, Hatch’s bill got little more than press attention. The election of Ronald Reagan as president put a friend to the Sagebrush Rebels in the White House – Interior Secretary James G. Watt – and his appointees slowed or closed down wilderness designation legislation. By Reagan’s second term, the Sagebrush Rebellion was back to simmering on the back burner.
But the charismatic corporate ad-man, Ronald Reagan, also stirred the long-simmering pot by intoning, in his first inaugural address, that “Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed. …government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”, and that only the people, exercising their freedoms, could restore America’s greatness. Countless disenfranchised (mostly white male Christian) Americans took that message to heart.
To the Front Burner
In a “Letter From Nevada” in the February 2015 issue of Harpers Magazine, Christopher Ketchum (who had visited the Cliven Bundy ranch and interviewed Bundy between his naps) wrote:
One could write a postwar history of the West as a chronology of ranchers’ resistance to federal regulation, and the center of resistance has always been Nevada. In 1979, following the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which for the first time mandated environmental protection of territory controlled by the BLM, cattlemen pushed a law through the Nevada state legislature declaring that federal public lands were now the property of the state. They called it the Sagebrush Rebellion Act. The cattle barons styled themselves “sagebrush rebels” and engaged in acts of defiance against the BLM, opening dirt tracks onto grazing allotments that had been closed, bulldozing new roads, overstocking their allotments, violating permit agreements, and refusing to pay grazing fees. As the rebellion spread, a conservative interest group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) joined the fight. ALEC was founded in 1973 to craft “model legislation” for state governments; it brought together conservative state legislators and industry representatives in closed-door sessions. Copycat Sagebrush Rebellion Acts were passed in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
In the past thirty years, ALEC has thrived: 27% of all state legislators are now members. Its corporate advisory board includes ExxonMobil, Altria, and Koch Industries. In addition to its work fighting federal ownership of public lands, ALEC has helped states to pass stand-your-ground laws, to privatize public education, and to implement ag-gag rules.
The western US is home to nearly 93% of all federal land, and just over half (52%) of all the land within the nation’s 13 Western states is under federal control.
In 2010, the Utah legislature passed the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act, which required the federal government to grant federal land back to the state of Utah after 2014 – with federal holdings comprising almost 62% of the state, though the bill exempted Native American lands, national parks, and military installations.
In 2015, nearly a dozen Western states considered bills related to the land control issue, ranging from creating study committees to requiring the federal government to transfer control of public lands to the states.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) vetoed two bills that asked the federal government to hand over public lands, but signed another that created a committee to study the issue. In Montana, Governor Steve Bullock (D) vetoed a similar study-committee bill.
“My position on this issue is crystal clear: I do not support any effort that jeopardizes or calls into question the future of our public lands heritage,” Bullock wrote in a veto letter.
The Nevada legislature passed a bill urging Congress to transfer 7 million acres of federal land to the state – an effort that had the support of several top Nevada Republicans.
“I think most if not all Nevadans, including me, would like to see more of the federal land turned over to the state, for us to manage and care for ourselves,” Governor Brian Sandoval (R) said in an interview with Nevada magazine.
Legislators in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming also proposed related bills in 2015.
Polling conducted in 2015 by the Colorado College State of the Rockies project, however, found that majorities of voters in each of six Western states – Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – view the lands managed by the federal government as belonging to the nation.
The New Brush-Burning Rebels
It was Cliven Bundy, an organic melon farmer and cattle rancher in southeastern Nevada who brought the public land issue to the front burner in 2014.
Bundy has refused, since 1993, to pay the very low (publicly subsidized) grazing fees that 15,000 other ranchers pay for use of federal range land. In part, this was a protest over the closure of traditional grazing lands that the BLM and the National Park Service shut down (an area half the size of Delaware) because of the arid and fragile habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.
Bundy, whose Mormon family settled, farmed and ranched in Bunkerville, Nevada since the 19th century, claimed that he has the right to graze his cows on the rangeland his family traditionally used.
The federal government said the cows are trespassing and note that Bundy lost federal court cases ordering him off the land, and a federal judge ordered Bundy not to interfere in a roundup of his livestock to pay off the more than $1 million he owes in back fees and interest.
Bundy, who represented himself in the court cases, vowed to do whatever it takes to protect his property, and has characterized the dispute as a “range war”.
The BLM rounded up and corralled 900 head of Bundy’s cattle, but found themselves facing a well-armed and determined band of “patriots” who traveled from all over the country to stand with Bundy against federal government over-reach.
Ultimately, not wanting a repeat of the Waco siege and gunfights or the Ruby Ridge shootout, the feds backed off, and to date have left Cliven Bundy and his trespassing cattle alone.
Though it might have been wise to avoid bloodshed (and the armed rebels said they were ready to kill all federal agents), this victory for the Militia Movement emboldened the Bundy boys and others to try it again in Burns Oregon. Unfortunately, they picked the wrong rancher family and the wrong place and the wrong battle to begin the Second American Revolution. But a legislative revolution was happening behind the scenes, while some Bundy supporters chose to act on their mission.
Again, from the Harpers “Letter From Nevada”:
On April 19, 2014, one week after the Bundy standoff, some fifty Republican state lawmakers, from nine Western legislatures, convened in Salt Lake City for what they called the Legislative Summit on the Transfer of Public Lands. The conference was organized by Ken Ivory, a Utah state representative, and Becky Lockhart, the speaker of the House in Utah: both are members of ALEC. Ivory had sponsored Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, which was passed overwhelmingly by the state legislature in 2012. At the summit, Lockhart called the Bundy affair “a symptom of a much larger problem” – the problem being that federal public land exists at all.
Bundy’s victory in 2014 – which is to say the BLM’s abject defeat – proved to be an inspiration for like-minded Americans. On May 6, two hooded men driving a pickup truck with a masked license plate approached a BLM employee driving a load of horses and burros on a highway near Nephi, Utah. They pointed a pistol at him and held up a sign that said YOU NEED TO DIE. The men fled, and were never caught. On June 8, Amanda and Jerad Miller, a young couple from Indiana who had joined Bundy’s militia, burst into a Las Vegas pizzeria and, at point-blank range, shot and killed two police officers who were eating lunch. The Millers draped the dead bodies with a yellow flag that said DON’T TREAD ON ME and pinned a note to one of them that called the killings the beginning of a revolution. They continued on to Walmart, where they shot and killed a customer. Then, after she found herself surrounded by police, Amanda killed her husband and turned the gun on herself.
Biting the Hand that Feeds Them
Cliven Bundy’s beef (pun intended) was with the federal BLM grazing fees and the prioritizing of endangered tortoises over ‘endangered’ ranchers.
Since 1966, federal grazing fees have been calculated in a unit called an Animal Unit Month – AUM – which is how much it costs to feed one cow and a calf for one month. On Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land, that price is currently $1.69 per AUM (it was only $1.35 when Bundy stopped paying).
The going rate for private land averages about $20 per animal per month, but is as high as $45 in some areas. With a BLM grazing permit, the rancher is responsible for maintaining fences and water retention, for instance, and on private lands a lot of that infrastructure is included in the price.
When the federal formula was designed in the 1960s, it tried to take into account those additional out-of-pocket expenses, with the goal to keep the amount ranchers paid the same on federal or private land. Ranchers aren’t necessarily getting a deep discount across the board, but some of them are getting a really good deal, compared to either state or private grazing land fees.
The state of Oregon is charging more than $15 per AUM, and some of those similar out-of-pocket expenses would be required on state land as they are on federal land. Idaho uses competitive bidding for state grazing land and gets market-based bids as high as $8 per AUM (with a 10- or 20-year lease).
The problem is that the BLM isn’t coming close to breaking even, and some calculations put the shortfall at $120 million per year, to be made up by the US taxpayers. This also leaves the BLM short of management funds to properly oversee the lands in their control.
In spite of this public subsidy, ranchers like Bundy balk at the very idea of paying for what they believe should be freely available or at least locally controlled for the benefit of people like him.
Apparently, ranchers like the Hammonds feel they have a right to poach deer on public lands and to start burns whenever they feel the need.
The Western Watersheds Project sees the militia takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as just another battle in the “War on the West” that extractive industries have been waging for 150 years. What Ammon Bundy considers tyrannical treatment of grazing permittees is actually a generous welfare program: between 1995 and 2012, Hammond Ranches, Inc. received $295,471 in federal payouts. The artificially low grazing fee creates a national deficit of at least $1.2 billion dollars every year, according to the Watersheds Project – hardly a sign that the federal agencies are trying to put ranchers out of business.
In fact, even the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is controversially open to livestock grazing use, despite the Refuge system’s mandate to protect wildlife habitat. Widespread livestock grazing occurs on nearly 220 million acres of public land in the western states, and this is a leading cause of soil loss, species endangerment, invasive species infestations, and predator killing, according to the Watersheds Project. 22,000 ranchers have the privilege of using federal lands for their operations, a business opportunity mistakenly referred to as a “right”, though the courts have affirmed that there are no “grazing rights”.
What makes Ammon Bundy’s anti-federalist stance even more ridiculous is that Bundy’s Valet Fleet Services LLC, borrowed $530,000 on April 15, 2010 (Tax Day) through a Small Business Administration loan guarantee program intended “to aid small businesses which are unable to obtain financing in the private credit marketplace”, and which cost taxpayers $22,419 in subsidies. He seems to appreciate the federal government when it benefits him.
The Bundy Family
Neither of the Bundy boys leading the occupation in Oregon are ranchers. Ammon Bundy lives in a Phoenix, Arizona suburb and runs a truck fleet maintenance service. Ryan Bundy lives in Cedar City, Utah, and owns a construction company.
R C Bundy Inc was incorporated in Utah in 2007 and had an annual revenue of $1-$2.5 million. It’s not clear that he still owns the company, according to court records of his arrest for interfering with an animal control officer and resisting arrest when deputies tried to enforce a warrant in Jan 2015.
Ryan Bundy, the oldest of Cliven Bundy’s 14 children, led a land use protest in which people rode all-terrain vehicles in Utah’s Recapture Canyon, which was closed to ATV access in 2007 by the BLM to protect 1,000 year old artifacts, including Native American burial sites.
Another Bundy son, Cliven Lance Bundy, 34, is jailed in Las Vegas and faces two to eight years in Nevada state prison after having been dropped from a court diversion program for violating probation. He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to felony burglary and weapon theft charges but had remained out of prison while he was enrolled in a drug user counseling and diversion program.
The Hammond Family
The Hammonds are well-liked and highly respected in Harney County where they are known for their generosity and community contributions. However, a fellow rancher who knows them well, tells how Dwight Hammond once diverted a Steens Mountain water source that fed Malheur Lake onto his own thirsty alfalfa field, which was discovered by Fish & Wildlife Service agents and which put Hammond on their radar as a law-breaker who put his own interests ahead of the general welfare.
And, in the 1980s, Dwight Hammond was among a group of ranchers who threw a local naturalist couple, Denzel and Nancy Ferguson, out of a public dance and then called to threaten: “A bunch of us guys are coming over to get you.” His beef with the Fergusons is that, for a quarter of a century, they tried to protect the fragile Malheur Wildlife Refuge from cattle and cattlemen.
For most of the 1970s, the Fergusons ran the Malheur Field Station, an environmental education outpost at the edge of the sanctuary, funded by 22 colleges and universities. Nancy and Denzel, with a PhD from Oregon State University in zoology, lived at the station as resident faculty. Nancy and Denzel wrote Sacred Cows at the Public Trough in 1983, the first book to challenge the myth of the Western rancher and question a century of unrestrained grazing on public land, detailing how “welfare ranchers” profit from federal subsidies and public spending.
Dwight Hammond, owns 12,000 acres of land, much of which abuts public land. The Hammond family also benefits from cheap grazing on a federal allotment of some 31,000 acres – the going rate for grazing a cow and a calf on private land for a month in Oregon is $17, the equivalent fee on federal public lands is only $1.69. Records show Hammond Ranches received more than $295,000 in federal payments between 1995 and 2012 under various conservation, livestock disaster, crop disaster and other assistance programs. Records also show that the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services paid for aerial hunting of coyotes and other predators on Steven Hammond’s ranch.
In spite of this federal largess, in 1994 Dwight Hammond and his son Steve obstructed the construction of a fence to delineate the boundary of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, prompting their arrest by federal agents.
In an affidavit, Earl M. Kisler, a Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement officer, said that rancher Dwight Hammond had repeatedly threatened refuge officials with violence over an eight year period. On one occasion Hammond told the manager of the federal refuge that “he was going to tear his head off and shit down his neck.”
According to the affidavit, Hammond threatened to kill refuge manager Forrest Cameron and assistant manager Dan Walsworth and claimed he was ready to die over a fence line that the refuge wanted to construct to keep his cows out of a marsh and wetland.
On August 3, 1994, a Fish and Wildlife Service crew turned up to complete the task of fencing off the marsh. They found the fence destroyed and a monkey-wrenched earthmover parked in the middle of the marsh. While the feds were waiting on a towing service to remove the Cat, Hammond’s son Steve showed up and began calling the government men “worthless cocksuckers” and “assholes.” Hammond then arrived at the scene, according to the government’s documents, and tried to disrupt the removal of the equipment. That’s when Dwight Hammond was arrested.
Following their release from jail on personal recognizance, a rally, organized by Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association (which is a “wise-use” property rights organization) and attended by 500 other cattle ranchers was held in support of the Hammonds in Burns, and then-congressman Robert Freeman Smith wrote a letter of protest to the United States Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt. Voters in Harney County successfully recalled two members of the county commission in anger that the commission had not intervened on the Hammonds’ behalf and didn’t put a county supremacy ordinance up for a vote.
The charges were lessened and eventually dropped after the Hammonds entered into an agreement with provisions including a halt to interfering with fence construction and moving their cattle through the refuge in one day – provisions they repeatedly violated, resulting in the revocation of their grazing permit.
After the rally, the Refuge manager and his family began receiving threats, including one call threatening to wrap the Camerons’ 12-year-old boy in a shroud of barbed wire and stuff him down a well. Terrified, Mrs. Cameron packed up their four children, including one confined to a wheelchair, and fled to Bend 100 miles away.
Forrest Cameron, who served as the Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the Malheur Refuge from 1989 to 1999, said the conflict between the Hammonds and the Fish and Wildlife Service goes back to the 1980s when they leveled death threats against the previous refuge manager. Cameron said that during his time “one way or another the Hammonds were violating their permit” for grazing cattle on refuge lands. He says it was an ongoing issue and, “They’ve done so many illegal activities that never got to a courtroom. Some violations were not significant, and we figured we could correct it by talking to them.”
Once, a biologist employed at the refuge reported, “The Hammonds were aerial gunning coyotes on the Malheur Refuge, which is illegal.”
Cameron said that when he arrived at Malheur in 1989, relations were “fairly good” with local ranchers, and about 30 of them had permits for grazing and haying on refuge land. But, when they began enforcing grazing regulations to protect the environment, the troubles with the Hammonds began.
Cameron says Hammonds’ cattle would get into Bridge Creek, a deep canyon, “until someone drove them out”. The cattle would devour woody plant species crucial to the ecosystem.
With the loss of the anchoring trees, the banks started eroding. Cameron says the creek would “become like a drainage ditch and the water table in the meadows around the creek would start dropping”. The effects rippled through the meadow, altering the entire species composition. Unable to reach water, grass would die off, sagebrush and other undesirable species would take root, and ground-nesting birds would lose breeding sites.
Cameron oversaw the rebuilding of fences around the refuge that had been wiped out by floods in the 1980s, removing some corrals for cattle that were of little use under the new grazing guidelines, and restoring habitat. He claims corrals in areas where cattle grazed “enticed the Hammonds to leave them there and they would get into the riparian areas, rather than moving them through the refuge”. Both Cameron and Marvin Plenert, Northwest regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service from 1986 to 1994, say the Hammonds would leave their cattle on the refuge for weeks at a time, damaging the land despite the clear rules.
Dwight and Steve Hammond were then convicted of arson in 2012 for setting fires on federal land adjacent to their property near Burns in 2001 and 2006. Federal prosecutors said the first fire was set to conceal the site of an illegal deer hunt, while the second fire was an unauthorized backburn set on the slopes below a firefighting camp.
Following their conviction, federal prosecutors requested a five year sentence for each of the Hammonds as provided for under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Hammonds weren’t charged with terrorism, but that unfortunately-named legislation set the minimum penalty for arson of federal property.
However, Judge Michael Robert Hogan determined sentences of that length “would shock the conscience” and violate the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and ordered the Hammonds imprisoned for sharply reduced terms, which both men served. Federal prosecutors successfully appealed the reduced sentences and, in an October 2015 re-sentencing, the pair was ordered to return to prison on January 4, 2016.
In a separate 2014 civil judgment, the Hammonds were ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the US government on an initial claim of $1 million for firefighting costs and damages. The pair paid half the amount immediately and the remaining $200,000 in December 2015.
A petition requesting leniency for the Hammonds began circulating prior to their re-sentencing. Organized by the Oregon Farm Bureau, it had gathered more than 2,000 signatures by October 2015 and the pair’s attorney said he hoped it would convince President Barack Obama to offer clemency. Meanwhile, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, a trade group representing cattle ranchers in Oregon, established a fund to defray the Hammond’s legal fees.
By late 2015, the Hammond case had attracted the attention of members of the Cliven Bundy family, including sons Ammon and Ryan. The Bundys publicized the situation via social media, drawing interest from militia groups outside Oregon who sought to draw attention to unrelated issues. The Hammonds rejected the offers of assistance.
Harney County sheriff David Ward agreed to meet with the militia members who requested the sheriff’s office protect the Hammonds from being taken into custody by federal authorities. Though Ward said he sympathized with the Hammonds plight, he declined the militias’ request. According to Ward, he subsequently became the target of “emailed death threats” and had his wife’s tires slashed, forcing her to leave town in fear.
Local Response and Occupier Intransigence
On Wednesday, January 6, the fifth day of the occupation, a Burns Town Hall meeting of county residents, facilitated by Sheriff Ward, found the overwhelming majority of locals wanted the occupiers to leave peacefully.
The Sheriff, who spent 21 years in the US Army, Oregon Army National Guard and the Army Reserves and served combat tours in Somalia and Afghanistan, and who celebrated his one-year anniversary on the job the day the occupation began, received a standing ovation before he could even speak to the gathering. Ward said: ”I don’t believe that just a small handful of people can come from outside and tell us how to lead our lives.” He added: “You’re not invited to come here and bother with our citizens. That’s not okay. That’s not how we live our lives in Harney County. I’m here to ask…that the people that are occupying our wildlife refuge go home…and allow us to get back to our lives.”
Ammon Bundy said “We will leave when the time is right, but it’s not that time.”
On the same day as the Town Hall Meeting, Lewis Arthur, who leads a group called Veterans on Patrol and calls himself an anti-violence patriot, arrived with two others, allegedly to remove women and children from harm’s way at the occupation site. Arthur also wanted to remove Ryan Payne, a former friend and fellow participant in the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff, because he claims that Payne wants to become a martyr and may bring violence down upon others.
Arthur said he was punched in the head by occupier Blaine Cooper, who then punched his colleague J Dog in the eye, sending him to the hospital. The Veterans on Patrol encamped across the road from the Refuge, supporting their cause but defying their tactics.
The next day, January 7, Sheriff Ward, backed up by two other sheriffs, met face-to-face with protest leader Ammon Bundy to bring a peaceful end to a weeklong occupation. “I’m here to offer safe escort out,” the sheriff told Bundy.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the occupation of the wildlife refuge “unlawful” and said it had to end. “It was instigated by outsiders whose tactics we Oregonians don’t agree with. Those individuals illegally occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge need to decamp immediately and be held accountable” she said.
Bundy later told reporters he would not leave until federal lands were turned over to the people.
Calling the militants who’ve taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters “armed thugs” and their occupation a “side show”, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer spoke on the US House floor to praise federal protection of public lands.
On Saturday, January 9, one week into the occupation, the Welcome To Your National Wildlife Refuge sign at the entrance was covered over by a blue sign with large white block letters saying Harney County Resource Center.
LaVoy Finicum, a scofflaw rancher, said the refuge occupiers are now taking up the cause of other area ranchers who have complaints against the BLM. He wouldn’t name the ranchers, but said the militants plan to dismantle a fence that keeps one rancher’s cattle off some federal land.
Militants were openly driving government-owned vehicles and heavy equipment around the compound, proclaiming that the trucks and backhoes now belong to the local community, putting their new sign to effect.
As Finicum was finishing his morning press briefing, members of the Pacific Patriot Network, a consortium of several groups from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, arrived mid-morning in a caravan of 18 vehicles, carrying rifles and sidearms and clad in military attire.
The Pacific Patriot Network was created by Joseph Rice, coordinator of the Oath Keepers of Josephine County, following the six-week “patriot” action at the Sugar Pine Mine in southwestern Oregon in April 2015, which included a number of those defending Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014.
Their leader, Brandon Curtiss, said the group came to “de-escalate” the situation by providing security for those inside and outside the compound. They aren’t staying in the compound, Curtiss said, but are patrolling the perimeter of the reserve.
Todd MacFarlane, a Utah lawyer acting as a mediator, said occupation leader Ammon Bundy doesn’t want the armed visitors there.
Joseph Rice, former National Guardsman and leader of the Pacific Patriot Network, told reporters that his group presented occupation leader Ammon Bundy and other protesters with “articles of resolution”, saying that his group wants to move the sides to an end to the standoff.
After leaving the refuge, members of the Pacific Patriots Network convoy, which Curtiss said numbered at least 50, arrived at the Harney County Courthouse where they passed their “articles of resolution” to Sheriff Wade. Curtiss, who said his group had already delivered the plan to the FBI at the Burns Municipal Airport, reiterated his wish to spark a dialogue, “so that everyone can go home”.
The Burns school district announced that school would be resuming the following Monday after a week-long security closure. But law enforcement authorities including the FBI and sheriff’s deputies from across the state have converted the Burns school district building into a makeshift command post with around-the-clock security.
Making an absurd insurgency even more bizarre is the obvious discord between the various “patriot” groups and Bundy’s occupiers.
On Monday, January 11 (day 10), Ammon and his boys escalated their law-breaking and made good on Finicum’s threat and used a US Fish & Wildlife Service backhoe to remove fence posts, part of a new fence installed in 2015 with a $100,000 grant.
But on Tuesday, local rancher Tim Puckett said that he wasn’t aware of the group’s plans and “they didn’t have my permission to do anything”. Puckett said he works with federal officials on land management and his employees have repaired the fence.
On Monday, Bundy also told the media that they’ve been searching through files to expose how the government has mistreated local ranchers who use federal land in the area, including Dwight and Steve Hammond. He insisted that they weren’t accessing government computers, but reporters witnessed them doing just that.
Perhaps with personnel information from the paper files or computer files, militants have been following, driving by homes, and harassing federal employees. Sheriff Ward had to issue a notice to townsfolk to offering tips on “prudent safety measures”. Sheriff Ward also pointedly said, “there’s an hour glass and it’s running out”.
False Grievances & Revisionist History
The Bundy family website published on November 12, 2015 a manifesto titled “Violations, Corruptions and Abuses in the Hammond Case” as well as a lengthy “Facts & Events in the Hammond Case”. Sounding like a semi-literate delineation of grievances such as appeared in the Declaration of Independence (America’s first official conspiracy theory), the Bundy history is largely fictitious.
For example, this is how the Bundy family described the origin of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge:
(aa) The Harney Basin (were the Hammond ranch is established) was settled in the 1870s. The valley was settled by multiple ranchers and was known to have run over 300,000 head of cattle. These ranchers developed a state of the art irrigated system to water the meadows, and it soon became a favorite stopping place for migrating birds on their annual trek north.
(ab) In 1908 President Theodor (sic) Roosevelt, in a political scheme, create an “Indian reservation” around the Malheur, Mud & Harney Lakes and declared it “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds”. Later this “Indian reservation” (without Indians) became the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In this revisionist history, the land was empty and worthless until white settlers came with their cattle and fortitude and the federal government engaged in a deceptive scheme to rob the real owners of their land and their hard-won improvements.
As eloquently told in Libertarian Fairy Tales (Jan 7, 2016) by Aaron Bady:
For the Bundys, then, nothing really happened before the 1870s. They do not mention Spanish explorers in 1532, or French Canadian trappers, or the British occupation after the war of 1812, or Oregon statehood in the 1850s. Their story most definitely does not begin thousands of years ago, when the first people settled the region. They have no time for how the Army re-settled the northern Paiute in the Malheur Indian reservation in 1872 – emptying Harney County for settlement by white people – nor how those same white settlers demanded (and got) the reservation dis-established in 1879 so they could have that land too.
But history didn’t begin in the 1870s. A lot had to happen before rancher-settlers could run hundreds of thousands of cattle in Harney County, and so a lot has to be forgotten by ideologues like the Bundy family. In part, this is because most of the pre-1870 erasures was done by the federal government. Obviously, the US military first had to ethnically cleanse the land, getting rid of the various native peoples that had lived in these stretches for thousands of years. But even after the land had become “free” to white settlers, prospective ranchers still needed markets for their cattle, especially once their primary market for meat, the Army, had moved on to other territories. It was the federal government that stepped in and bailed them out, taking on debt by an act of Congress to finance and build a railroad system. Without the Central Pacific Railway, those thousands of cattle could never have been sold.
Despite the Bundy mythology of family farming and homesteading – individual homesteads headed by patriarchal Free Men – cattle ranching in Harney County was first and foremost a corporate concern. For one thing, raising cattle is and has always been a capital-intensive industry, so Harney County ranchers had to be, and were, financed by businessmen in California, which is where most of the ranchers originally came from. In the 1860s and ’70s, the prospects for cattle ranching in California had become dim: A few major droughts and a piece of fencing legislation in 1874 (which favored planted agriculture over stock-raising by placing the financial burden for fencing on cattle ranchers instead of on grain farmers) effectively closed the California range, sending herds east into the northern Great Basin.
When Peter French first came to Harney County in 1872, for example, he represented Hugh J. Glenn, a businessman in Sacramento, acquiring land and cattle for what he would eventually incorporate (in California) as the French-Glenn Livestock Company. French would marry into Hugh J. Glenn’s family, but only after their business partnership had been consummated, becoming one of the two major corporations that owned the vast majority of the ranchland in the county. Peter French acquired his land by any means necessary, but all of it had originally been acquired by and then from the federal government. Sometimes French bought it from discouraged family settlers, who were looking to move on; sometimes he forced them to move on, so they would sell their land to him. Sometimes he quietly fenced off and seized what would have otherwise been public rangeland; according to a General Land Office report of 1886–87, around 30,000 acres of commons had somehow found itself enclosed by French-Glenn fences. Another means of sidestepping the law was for his own employees to file homestead claims and then immediately sell the land to their employer (according to historian Margaret Lo Piccolo Sullivan, French-Glenn acquired around 27,000 acres between 1882 and 1889, of which around 16,000 were “purchased” from employees listed on the company ledger). …
After the 1870s, the story of Harney County ranching became a story of class warfare, as cattle barons such as French sought to expand and monopolize the range by destroying or incorporating smaller competitors. The underlying economics – and corrupt local governance – tended to favor the syndicate: Only well-capitalized firms, with many employees, had the resources to drive their cattle to the nearest railhead, hundreds of miles away, so small-scale ranchers often had no choice but to sell their cattle to the big operations (at whatever price the large operations chose to buy). Large firms could drive small ranches out of business, simply by refusing to buy from them. Of course, sometimes the big fish eating the little fish paid their own price: Hugh J. Glenn would be killed by a disgruntled employee, and Peter French, in turn, would be shot and killed in 1897 by a small-holder whose farm he had encircled as part of a long-running border dispute. But that was the old West.
The era of the great cattle barons had already passed, long before the Hammonds moved to Oregon and bought their ranch in the Diamond Valley, what had once been a part of French’s 140,000-acre empire. When the frontier closed at the dawn of the 20th century, sheep farms, drought, and desertification put the big cattle ranches into debt: The French-Glenn Livestock Company would be sold to Henry L. Corbett in 1907 and become part of the Blitzen Valley Land Company, which would in turn be re-organized as the Eastern Oregon Livestock Company, in 1916. But in 1935, the company would be underwater again, this time for good; its shareholders would look to the government to buy them out.
The 65,000-acre Blitzen Valley tract, which was the last of the French-Glenn ranching empire, was purchased for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 1935, and the 14,000 acre Double-O unit was bought from another livestock company in 1942. No ranchers were ever displaced by the creation of the Refuge, the expansion of which was as much a cattle industry bailout as a boon to nature and those who enjoy it.
The myth of the free and hardy small-scale rancher is largely that. Before the federal agencies came to eastern Oregon, large out-of-state ranching operations had monopolized hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland. Irrigation developers controlled water, cattle barons controlled the grass, and settlers were essentially locked out.
From the Harpers “Letter From Nevada”:
In 1885, William A. J. Sparks, the commissioner of the General Land Office, reported to Congress that “unscrupulous speculation” had resulted in “the worst forms of land monopoly …throughout regions dominated by cattle-raising interests.” West of the hundredth meridian, cattle barons had enclosed the best forage along with scarce supplies of water in an arid landscape. They falsified titles using the signatures of cowhands and family members, employed fictitious identities to stake claims, and faked improvements on the land to appear to comply with the law. “Probably most private range land in the western states” a historian of the industry concluded “was originally obtained by various degrees of fraud”.
The cattle barons were not cowboys, though they came to veil themselves in the cowboy mythos. They were bankers and lawyers, or mining and timber and railroad tycoons. They dominated territorial legislatures, made governors, kept judges, juries, and lawmen in their pockets. They hired gunmen to terrorize those who dared to encroach on their interests. They drove off small, cash-poor family ranchers by stampeding or rustling their herds, bankrupting them with spurious lawsuits, diverting water courses and springs, fencing off land to monopolize the grass, and, finally, when all else failed, by denouncing the subsistence ranchers as rustlers who should be lynched. By the late nineteenth century, the barons had privatized the most productive grasslands and the riparian corridors, where the soil was especially rich. What remained was the less valuable dry-land forage of the public domain, which by 1918 totaled some 200 million acres spread across the eleven states of the West, and which the barons also dominated by stocking them with huge numbers of cows.
Overgrazed and under-regulated, the public rangelands descended into a spiral of degradation, the grass in ruin, the topsoil eroded by rain or lifted off by the wind. Only in the 1920s did Congress take serious notice. Ferdinand Silcox, the chief forester of the US Forest Service, testified in 1934 that unregulated grazing was “a cancer-like growth”. Its necessary end, Silcox said, was “a great interior desert” – a vast dust bowl. …
Grazing is the chief cause of desertification in North America, and it has irrevocably altered the surviving ecosystems not yet reduced to dust. Cattle have been implicated in the eradication of native plants, the pollution of springs and streams, the denuding of cover for birds and mammals, the deforestation of hardwoods, and the monoculturing of grasslands. When the Department of the Interior completed its most recent analysis of the ecology of the public lands under BLM management, in 1994, the overall assessment was dire. The riparian areas in particular were found to be in their worst shape in recorded history.
The BLM today acknowledges that “a large part of the Great Basin lies on the brink of ecological collapse”.
Most of the public lands in the West, and especially in the Southwest, are what you might call ‘cowburnt’. Almost anywhere and everywhere you go in the American West you find hordes of these ugly, clumsy, stupid, bawling, stinking, fly-covered, shit-smeared, disease-spreading brutes. They are a pest and a plague. They pollute our springs and streams and rivers. They infest our canyons, valleys, meadows, and forests. They graze off the native bluestem and grama and bunchgrasses, leaving behind jungles of prickly pear. They trample down the native forbs and shrubs and cactus. They spread the exotic cheatgrass, the Russian thistle, and the crested wheatgrass. Weeds.
Even when the cattle are not physically present, you’ll see the dung and the flies and the mud and the dust and the general destruction. If you don’t see it, you’ll smell it. The whole American West stinks of cattle. Along every flowing stream, around every seep and spring and water hole and well, you’ll find acres and acres of what range-management specialists call “sacrifice areas”. These are places denuded of forage, except for some cactus or a little tumbleweed or maybe a few mutilated trees like mesquite, juniper, or hackberry.
– Edward Abbey
During the 1890s, populist, anti-monopolist rhetoric emerged among settlers and news editors. The local newspaper deplored the fact that the great Western ranges were passing into “the hands of a few big cattle or sheep companies”, and predicted that soon “an aristocracy of range lords and cattle kings would rule our mountains and plains”.
In a NY Times op-ed, titled In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger:
Conservationists won a major victory in 1935 when French’s former grassland was sold to the refuge, ensuring it had the water needed to flourish. John Scharff, the refuge manager from 1935 to 1971, worked closely with ranchers to establish grazing leases that funded the restoration of former wetlands and won public support for the effort. By 1968, cattle use was nearly as intense as during the days of the cattle barons. Ranchers still imagined themselves as the rugged individualists of their romantic past, though they had become heavily subsidized, grazing their herds on refuge meadows for fees that were often lower than those on private lands.
In the 1970s, government concern grew over the effects of grazing on waterfowl, trout and aquatic health. When Mr. Scharff retired, the new refuge manager had the difficult task of restoring wildlife habitat by reducing cattle numbers. By law, on federal wildlife refuges, the first priority is wildlife. Other uses are allowed when they enhance wildlife habitat, but not when they harm it. Nonetheless, when the new manager lowered the number of grazing permits, controversy erupted over cows versus birds – anger that continues to simmer in the basin.
The land that Roosevelt had set aside for the Malheur Refuge was officially unclaimed federal land. But ranchers who had used and abused that land for decades felt they had rights to it, setting the stage for a century-long battle, which has culminated today in the Bundy Boys Occupation.
This ad ran way back in 1920 during a campaign to drain Malheur Lake and sell the land to farmers. That campaign failed, but the historical revisionism and manipulative emotionalism of the Range Warriors has changed little since then.
Addendum 1: Sportsmen & Birders Unite Against Bundy Boys
Several sportsman’s groups, including the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation partnership, have joined the chorus of those demanding that the Bundy Boys leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Judith Kohler of the National Wildlife Federation points out wide-spread support for maintaining public lands and not giving them away to anyone, least of all to militants wearing cowboy hats and waving guns.
Randy Scholfield, Trout Unlimited’s director of communications for the Southwest region, wrote:
“The all-hat, no-cattle bunch that are cooling their heels at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge do not reflect the views of working ranchers and farmers in the West, many of whom understand the importance of conservation and land protection. Many of these working landowners also are working with groups like Trout Unlimited and the federal government’s land agencies on projects that improve ranchlands and irrigation systems, as well as protect watersheds and fisheries.”
Garrett VeneKlasen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said at the Malheur Refuge, “I came here form New Mexico to tell all these people to get the hell off of my land.”
Mark Heckert of Washington state had a cardboard sign reading: “Get the flock outta my wildlife refuge.”
“I never thought I’d say that, but I’m here to oppose the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge,” Heckert said. To Heckert, it’s all a way to take away federal land belonging to the American people and sell it off to big corporations – a “huge land and money grab.”
And Norwegian-Australian-American born in the Adirondacks professional wildlife photographer Kevin Vang, writing in the Daily Kos on January 5 under the pen name Norwegian Chef, gave a stern warning to the trespassers:
Just a friendly warning from the birding and wildlife photography community to the Oregon terrorists. We are watching your every move, and we have been watching you for a long time. And yes absolutely you are domestic terrorists of the worst kind, and the truth about your decades of constant poaching of protected wildlife around Malheur and other wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and BLM lands has been well-documented. For years those of us who are wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and carers of wildlife, have been documenting the activities of you poachers and criminals around many of our nation’s wildlife refuges. With our powerful cameras, and ability to move unseen in the wilderness, we have found and documented your illegal hunts, your illegal traps and all sorts of illicit activities, and are constantly feeding that information to law enforcement, and we have finally got many of you poachers on the run and into jails. And I for one am a westerner sick to death of you welfare queens and cheats living off of BLM land, illegally gutting our wilderness and our wildlife. Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago. Wildlife photographers and wildlife/bird watchers now number some 40 million people in the USA, and feed many rural western economies with our tourism dollars, and we will not stand for your sedition.
As Oregon’s Congressman Earl Blumenauer just stated, “Armed insurrection is terrorism. The situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge shouldn’t be allowed to fester but should be dealt with firmly, swiftly and fairly. The continued disruption to the community of Burns and occupation of a federal facility is unacceptable. Those involved should be arrested and prosecuted.”
Those of us who are international wildlife and nature photographers regularly face charging elephants, attacking lions and grizzlies, hidden crocodiles, massive storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the hottest, coldest and windiest conditions, and all kinds of poisonous snakes and bugs in our work, and we know the outdoors and wilderness from desert to jungle to sea to mountain to tundra from pole to equator better then any poacher or criminal or yeehaw yokel ever will, and we are not afraid to protect it. We have a just fear of nature from experience, but we don’t fear you gun-toting thugs in the least. You will never see us, but we and our cameras will always see you. We will #takebackmalheur from you terrorists, and will not rest until every one of you thugs and poachers is behind bars where they belong. You may think that your communities support you, but the majority do not and as many as support you, many more despise you, and your every move is being documented in great detail. The birding networks are ablaze right now about everything going on in Malheur. We know the nearby trailer park, who is supplying you with food, and a tourist boycott of them is already in the works for all birders for this upcoming bird season. We know who everyone is coming in and out, and why, and every shred of information is going straight to law enforcement and across every birding network in America.
And for those of us who are also lawyers (I for example just happen to have a law degree of U of Oregon), whether the Feds prosecute you or not (and we will do all in our power to ensure they do), we will put every civil suit against you and God knows you have given us plenty to work with, so you will know once and for all that your odious actions have real consequences.
We stand now and forever with wildlife, and you seditionists and terrorists are about to find out that there is a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out and poach innocent animals, will never be able to outrun or hide from.
We are watching you and our years of birding photography have made us endlessly patient and determined.
Addendum 2: Anatomy of a Standoff (full report is here)
Experts with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism have attempted to identify as many of the participants in the takeover as possible, watching and reading many interviews and scouring hundreds of profiles and videos on social media.
This report provides mini-profiles on 30 different occupiers and allies who have been at the wildlife refuge headquarters examining their backgrounds, ideologies, and activities. Not all of these people are full-time occupiers; some, for example, have stayed in hotels while spending a lot of time in the refuge. Others have taken “time outs” from being occupiers to deal with personal issues such as family and employment. Also not included here are individuals or groups who tried to insert themselves into the Oregon standoff in one way or another. It also analyzes the composition of the occupiers, illustrating a number of important aspects to the participants in the takeover, including:
- The importance of the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. Of the 30 occupiers detailed in this report, more than half (17 of 30) appear to have actually participated in the earlier standoff between Cliven Bundy and the federal government in Nevada in 2014, including almost all of the key participants. The 2016 Oregon standoff is a direct sequel to its 2014 predecessor.
- About two-thirds of the occupiers appear to have the anti-government “Patriot” movement – and more specifically, the militia wing of that movement – as their primary ideological affiliation. The militia movement believes that the United States government is collaborating with a shadowy globalist conspiracy known as the New World Order to slowly strip Americans of their rights –starting with their right to bear arms.
- The remaining one-third of the occupiers have an anti-government ideology centered on opposition to federal regulation of public lands, a movement often referred to as the Sagebrush Rebellion or the Wise Use movement. Some of the occupiers also have associations with other right-wing extremist movements, such as anti-immigrant border vigilantes or the sovereign citizen movement. Almost a quarter of the takeover participants have expressed some sort of racism, anti-Semitism, or anti-Muslim bigotry.
- The overwhelming majority of the identified occupiers (25 out of 30) came from out of state, mostly from Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Only five were from anywhere in Oregon. The takeover is an example of outsiders coming into a local area to pursue their own agenda.
- Most of the extremists involved in the takeover are not prominent or well known, even to other extremists. Many of them are also relatively newly radicalized. Few have any leadership experiences with extremist groups or causes. This may have accounted for the general indecisiveness and uncertainty that has characterized much of their activity since the initial seizure.
Takeover/Occupation Participants (in alphabetical order)
Note: (BR) appearing after a person’s name indicates someone who participated, or seems to have participated, in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada.
Dylan Anderson. When interviewed by reporters, Utahn Anderson has generally given his name only as “Captain Moroni,” a reference to a figure in Mormon scripture. Anderson supported the Bundys during their 2014 standoff with the federal government, but does not seem to have been present at the time. In May 2014, he gave $5 to the Bundy’s legal fund, writing, “Sorry it’s not more, I spent all my money on [an] AR-15 and ammo.” On January 1, 2016, Anderson praised Ammon Bundy as a leader in Burns and said, “We must never hand victory to the New World Order conspirators and political criminals without opposition.”
Joe Biggs. Based in Texas, Biggs is a “reporter” for the right-wing conspiracy website Infowars, run by Alex Jones. Biggs first achieved notoriety in 2013 following the death of journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings in an automobile accident in California. Biggs, a former Army veteran, came forward to claim that he had been a close friend of Hastings and to imply that Hastings’ death was a murder at the hands of the government. While publicizing these beliefs, Biggs made several appearances with conspiracy theorist and talk show host Alex Jones. This led to Biggs becoming a “reporter” for Alex Jones by 2014. Biggs seems to have missed the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff but spent time in 2014 and 2015 on the border with Mexico “investigating” reports of secret bases belonging to the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. In 2015, he covered an anti-Muslim rally in Phoenix organized by Jon Ritzheimer (see below). Accompanied by armed members of the anti-government Oath Keepers, he was also at Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2015. In December 2015, Biggs and Alex Jones alleged that the San Bernardino shootings were a “false flag” operation (i.e., staged by the US government) designed to “demonize the Second Amendment”. Biggs arrived in Oregon on January 3 to cover the standoff for Infowars and has spent much of his time at the refuge headquarters, though does not seem to be spending the nights there.
Ammon Bundy (BR). The leader of the refuge occupiers, Arizona resident Ammon Bundy, owner of a small truck maintenance company, is one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and played a prominent role in the elder Bundy’s April 2014 standoff with the federal government – even getting tased by law enforcement officers at one point. Ammon Bundy’s ideological views also mirror those of his father, denying that the federal government has any legitimate rights to the public lands that it controls. Like his father, Ammon also believes that the role of the county sheriff is to keep “foreign forces” such as the federal government out of the county. This is a notion that originally emanated from the sovereign citizen movement, though Ammon Bundy does not appear to be a sovereign citizen (extremists other than sovereign citizens now also promote this theory).
Following the 2014 standoff, Ammon Bundy cooperated with his father in trying to convince the Nevada legislature to prohibit the federal government from owning land in Nevada. Ammon Bundy allegedly worked closely with the legislators sponsoring the bill. He also began speaking at various right-wing events. In late 2015, Ammon Bundy began publicizing the plight of Dwight and Steven Hammond, the Oregon ranchers at the center of the Burns, Oregon, controversy. Bundy and Ron Payne (see below) even traveled to Oregon to visit them; they returned in late December to take part in a protest over the Hammonds and to engage in what would become the Malheur takeover. After the protest, Bundy and others took over the wildlife refuge. The primary spokesperson for the occupiers, Bundy has made various demands in exchange for their leaving, ranging from releasing the Hammonds from prison to the federal government surrendering all of the land in the wildlife refuge to the “citizens”.
Mel Bundy (BR). One of three Bundy brothers taking part in the seizure of the wildlife refuge, Mel Bundy has also been the most reticent, shunning interviews with the media. A Nevadan who works at gold mining, Bundy took time off in April 2014 to participate in the standoff between his father and the federal government. According to militia figure Ryan Payne (see below), it was he and Mel Bundy who orchestrated a “plan for the cohesion between the Bundys and the militia” during the standoff. Bundy’s beliefs echo those of his brothers, including his view of the role of the county sheriff “to defend our rights to these lands” against the federal government. Mel Bundy accompanied Cliven and Ammon in March 2015 to the Nevada legislature to support a bill to attempt to prohibit federal land ownership in the state.
Ryan Bundy (BR). The eldest of Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ryan Bundy has lived in Nevada and Utah, where he has been involved with various businesses. In 2014, he participated in the Bundy Ranch standoff, but he has had at least some connections with right-wing extremism that date back years before the standoff. As early as 2006, Bundy ran for county commissioner on the ticket of the extreme right-wing Constitution Party, urging people to “stop this federal monster.” In 2008, Bundy ran on the Constitution Party ticket for a state house seat. In both instances he was unsuccessful, as he was in 2010 in again running for county commissioner. In 2012, Bundy sought the Republican nomination for a state house seat – unsuccessfully – but his message was no different. He vowed to eliminate intrusive laws and to stop “interference” by the federal government. In 2014, Bundy took a leading role in his father’s standoff in Nevada, frequently speaking to supporters or the media.
Shortly after the standoff, Ryan took part in another act of defiance against the federal government, participating in an organized all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) ride on federal land to protest the closure of an ATV trail located too close to ancient Indian ruins. According to the Durango Herald, Ryan Bundy “was egging the crowd on”. Though the organizer of the ATV ride urged participants to stay within legal areas, Ryan Bundy, according to the Deseret News, chose to ride in prohibited areas, saying that staying within legal areas “shows cowardice to the federal government”.
In January 2015, Bundy was charged with resisting arrest during an attempt by local sheriff’s deputies to serve him with a warrant for interfering with an animal control officer in 2014. The alleged resisting occurred while Bundy was at the county courthouse being arraigned on yet a third criminal charge, a trespassing charge. These were simply the latest in a series of minor criminal entanglements on Bundy’s part; he has pleaded guilty or not contest to, or been convicted of, a number of other minor crimes, ranging from misdemeanor theft to interfering with an arrest to burning without a permit. In dealing with a nuisance charge in September 2015, Ryan Bundy said of local officials, “I’m not their serf, and I’m not their slave.”
Brian Cavalier (BR). Cavalier arrived in Oregon with the Bundy brothers; he has an association with the Bundys that goes back to the 2014 standoff, where he explained to one reporter that he is a former Marine who worked in Arizona for a parts manufacturer for off-road vehicles. Cavalier became one of the Bundy brothers’ “security” detail and has also referred to himself as a bodyguard. After the standoff was over, Cavalier remained at the Bundy ranch, living in a trailer. In Oregon, Cavalier – who often would only identify himself as “Sunshine Unicorn” or “Fluffy Unicorn” – said that he was in charge of “operations” at the refuge. This past week, the British newspaper Daily Mail published a story revealing that Cavalier had never served in the Marine Corps, much less, as he had alleged, been in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to news sources, he has since left the refuge.
Blaine Cooper/Stanley Blaine Hicks (BR). Cooper, also known as Stanley Blaine Hicks, is an anti-government extremist and militia activist from Arizona and an associate of Jon Ritzheimer (see below). Like Ritzheimer, he is also an Islamophobe who has posted videos engaging in actions such as smearing a Koran with bacon , then setting fire to it. In Oregon, he and Ritzheimer have used the Internet to solicit donations of food, supplies, and money from other right-wing extremists. Shortly before arriving in Oregon, Cooper and Ritzheimer were in Seattle, Washington, for a protest at the federal courthouse to support Schuyler Barbeau, a militia movement adherent and Bundy ranch veteran who was arrested in 2015 on weapons charges. Cooper too was present at the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014, where he served with Brian Cavalier as personal security to the Bundy family. According to the website RawStory, Cooper may have participated in vigilante border patrols. In 2013, Cooper confronted Arizona Senator John McCain at a town hall meeting, accusing the senator of treason. According to The Oregonian, Cooper/Hicks was convicted of aggravated assault in 2009. Husband of Melissa Cooper (see below).
Melissa Cooper (BR). Wife of Blaine Cooper (see above), Melissa is an extremist in her own right as well. She told The Oregonian that she too was at the Bundy Ranch in 2014. In November 2015 she joined Blaine in an anti-immigrant vigilante patrol, dubbed “Operation Big Bird,” along Arizona’s border with Mexico. The patrol was conducted by Arizona Border Recon, one of the currently most active border vigilante groups.
Shawna Cox (BR). Cox, from Kanab, Utah, is a close associate of the Bundy brothers, having been a Bundy ranch standoff veteran. During the standoff, she served as “personal secretary” to Cliven Bundy. When the standoff was over, she wrote a short book on the confrontation: Last Rancher Standing: The Cliven Bundy Story, a Close-Up View. Like the Bundy family, her anti-government ideology stems primarily from anger at federal regulation of public lands. In 2009 she organized an ATV-related protest ride in southern Utah (similar to the one Ryan Bundy participated in; see above). She was also involved in a local Wise Use-type group. At the Oregon standoff, Cox read to reporters a list of grievances and demanded that an “independent evidential hearing board” be assembled to investigate the criminal case against the Hammonds. She has also worked with Ammon Bundy in the refuge headquarters as well as being involved in the effort to solicit food and supplies donations from other extremists through an address in Princeton, Oregon.
Duane Ehmer. Ehmer, a welder from Irrigon, Oregon, showed up at the wildlife refuge on January 3, saying, “My axe is sharp. I believe in supporting the Hammond family.” However, he only seems to have stayed for a day or so before returning back to Oregon, explaining that “I have to work a few days before I go back.” He also said that he had “come back to get my horse and more guns”. On January 7, he posted a photograph to his Facebook profile of himself posing with an assault rifle and an American flag in front of his truck, writing “I love my family,” which some of his Facebook followers took to mean that he was on his way back to the refuge. He has since been confirmed, with his horse, back at the headquarters.
LaVoy Finicum (BR). Finicum is an Arizona rancher, which ironically makes him one of the few actual ranchers involved in the refuge takeover. He is an ally and associate of Cliven Bundy and took part in Bundy’s 2014 standoff. In November 2015, Finicum claimed that he would no longer pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management because it was an illegitimate agency that he would not recognize. In 2015 Finicum also published a novel, Only by Blood and Suffering: Regaining Lost Freedom, a work of post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction. At the wildlife refuge, he has been one of the occupiers most willing to talk to the media.
Rance Harris. Harris, who has allegedly joined the occupiers, is an anti-government extremist from Oregon who also sports at least five different white supremacist tattoos. In April 2015, Harris was one of a number of anti-government extremists who mobilized to support the Sugar Pine Mine, near Merlin, Oregon, in its conflict with the federal government.
Wes Kjar. A Utah occupier who has become Ammon Bundy’s bodyguard, Kjar told a Reuters reporter that he quit his job at an oil rig to come to the standoff. Kjar has declared that he is “standing for all the oppressed ranchers [and land users] across the country”.
Corey Lequieu (BR). Lequieu is an anti-government extremist from Nevada, where he has held various jobs and undergone lengthy stints of unemployment. In 2013 he and his wife, Debra Carter Pope (see below), joined the anti-government Watchmen of America. He may also have ties to Nevada militia groups. Lequieu has made a number of racist comments on Facebook, including a reference to “typical nigger behavior”. He has called for a new American revolution several times, one phrased thusly: “Time for a new revolution to begin in America to take this country back from the Muslim porch monkey traitor.” He may have been a Bundy Ranch standoff veteran.
Todd MacFarlane. McFarlane is a Utah attorney who came to Burns, Oregon, to support the occupiers, allegedly at the request of LaVoy Finicum. He subsequently acted as a spokesperson for the people at the Oregon standoff, though he does not appear to have stayed with them at the refuge. In 2014, MacFarlane, a rancher as well as an attorney, supported Cliven Bundy during his standoff with the federal government, but was not present on the scene. In one 2014 editorial supporting Bundy, MacFarlane quoted Stephen Pratt, father of Oregon occupier Jon Pratt (see below). MacFarlane has represented fringe groups or figures in the past; in 2003, he was the attorney for a member of a Mormon polygamous group charged with conspiracy and sexual assault – until the man engaged with a standoff with police, following which MacFarlane dropped him as a client. In 2000, MacFarlane represented a group of ranchers who “liberated” cattle that had been seized by the BLM and placed at an auction house.
Joe O’Shaughnessy (BR). O’Shaughnessy, an Arizona militia and Oath Keepers member, has been active for several years with right-wing extremist causes, including vigilante border patrols with anti-immigration groups along the Mexican border. In 2015, following the shootings at military buildings in Chattanooga, Tennessee, O’Shaughnessy also called for militia members and other anti-government extremists to block the entrances of any local mosques in their area. He often refers to himself as “Captain” O’Shaughnessy and in a “press release” he issued in Oregon he described himself as being associated with the “North American Coalition of Constitutional Militias”. After a week of the standoff, O’Shaughnessy began to have some suspicions about the occupation, asking “has anyone stopped to think how did they get some of the greatest men in the Patriot movement to go out in the middle of nowhere to [occupy] a small building…at the coldest time of the year at a time where everybody is broke because of the [holidays]. I don’t know about you but this is all starting to look fishy to me.” Was the electricity left on, he asked, “because the place was already pre-bugged…There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.” In other words, O’Shaughnessy actually began to think that somehow the government lured the occupiers out to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. O’Shaughnessy has spent time at the refuge but now seems to be staying at a nearby motel, allegedly because of arguments he had with others at the refuge. He has tried to raise donations for the occupiers and to form what he dubbed a “Constitutional Security Team”.
Jason Patrick (BR). Patrick is an anti-government extremist and Three Percenter from Georgia who participated in the Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014. He achieved some local notoriety in Georgia for run-ins with law enforcement and court personnel, often for trying to bring video cameras into courtrooms. Patrick described the run-ins as having “been caged multiple times for failing to exhibit an appropriate amount of fear when facing a terrorist”. In November, Patrick told his Facebook friends that he was heading up to the Burns, Oregon, area. However, he took a detour to Seattle, Washington, in December, where he joined other soon-to-be refuge occupiers in protesting the arrest of anti-government extremist Schuyler Barbeau on weapons charges.
Ryan Payne (BR). Payne, an electrician from Montana, was the founder of the tiny West Mountain Rangers militia who became involved in the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014, claiming the need “to be the barrier between the oppressed and the tyrants”. An early arrival, he became one of the coordinators of the anti-government extremists who flocked to the side of the Bundy family during that standoff. Payne has also identified with the anti-government sovereign citizen movement as well as the militia movement, as well as some white supremacist views. In a 2014 interview, Payne told a reporter that slavery never really existed in the United States and that there was “an effort by some Jews to control the world”. After the Bundy Ranch standoff, Payne accompanied Ryan Bundy to Utah (see above) to engage in an anti-BLM protest over ATV restrictions.
Daniel and John Perrara/Pereira. Daniel and John were interviewed by a reporter at the refuge; by their statements, they seemed to be ranchers from northern California. It is not clear if they were merely visiting the occupiers or if they have stayed on.
Debra Carter Pope (BR). According to her partner (Corey Lequieu; see above), Pope is from Nevada and an Air Force veteran and former deputy sheriff. A Linkedin profile identifies her as a former dispatcher for the Nevada Highway Patrol; she currently seems to be living on military disability. In 2013 she and Lequieu joined the Watchmen of America, an anti-government extremist group. She is also a survivalist. She may have been at the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. At the Oregon standoff, Pope has been employed as one of the cooks for the occupiers.
Jon Pratt. Pratt, a Utahn, is not as well-known as was his father, Stephen Pratt, who died in 2012. The elder Pratt was a former disciple of W. Cleon Skousen, the influential right-wing extremist who combined Mormon conservatism with libertarian politics and conspiracy theories. Stephen Pratt went on to become an activist and speaker on his own, talking about subjects such as alleged federal land grabs. In recent years, Jon Pratt seems to have tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, even delivering a talk in 2013 to a local meeting of the right-wing extremist Constitution Party that seems to have been a lecture his father frequently gave. Pratt was a relatively late arrival to the Oregon standoff.
Ken Rhoades. Ken Rhoades was identified as a 71-year-old man from Michigan in a Facebook video posted early after the occupation began, urging people to give them their support. He has since been confirmed to be present as one of the occupiers.
Jon Ritzheimer. Ritzheimer is an anti-Muslim activist and anti-government extremist from Arizona who became active in right-wing extremist causes only in 2015, but did so with a big splash, organizing controversial armed anti-Muslim rallies in Phoenix and creating an anti-Muslim website called Rogue Infidel where one can buy t-shirts sporting anti-Islamic obscenities. During these anti-Muslim actions, Ritzheimer increasingly made connections with other right-wing extremists in Arizona. By the summer of 2015, Ritzheimer had joined anti-government groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers, but he turned out to be too extreme for the latter. Ritzheimer said in August 2015 that he was sick of the Oath Keepers’ “defense” and that “we’re ready for offense”. A few weeks later, Ritzheimer went on the offense, threatening to “arrest” a Michigan congresswoman who had supported the Iran nuclear deal in order to charge her with treason. He would follow that up with other, similar arrests, including President Obama. After these statements, the Oath Keepers kicked him out of their group. Ritzheimer is a former Marine who was, he has admitted, discharged for violating the Corps’ tattoo policies. Ritzheimer is one of the more volatile participants in the refuge standoff.
Pete Santilli (BR). Santilli is a right-wing Internet podcast host and conspiracy theorist from Cincinnati, Ohio. Santilli traveled to Nevada in 2014 to “cover” the Bundy Ranch standoff and has also taken part in anti-immigrant activities in California. In 2013, he said on his Internet show that Hillary Clinton needed to be tried, convicted, and then shot in the vagina, something that brought him to the attention of the Secret Service. According to Media Matters, Santilli has also said that violence against the government would be justified as “the equivalent of us going out and doing a preemptive strike on our foreign enemies. That would be justified…because of the war that has been perpetrated upon our American people.” In September 2015, Santilli organized a protest outside the Arizona office of Senator John McCain to demand his arrest. Santilli has identified himself with the Three Percenters. In Oregon, Santilli has acted as one of the occupiers’ many spokespersons, though he said that he did not participate in the takeover “because that is an illegal action”. Santilli was recently arrested in Ohio for carrying a weapon without a permit but it is not clear if he made his court date, which was for January 4.
Michael Stettler (BR). Stettler, one of relatively few Oregonians to participate in the occupation, is an electrician from Christmas Valley. He showed up at the occupation after learning it had occurred, having previously been a participant in the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014. Stettler is originally from California, where he has run for Congress as a Democratic write-in candidate.
Brand Thornton (BR). Thornton is a member of the Southern Nevada Militia and a 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff veteran, where he was one of a number of armed militia men who took up positions on a freeway overpass to confront BLM agents. A few days before the Oregon takeover, Brand posted to his Facebook profile that the “FEDS are doing the NEW WORLD ORDER and AGENDA 21 on us right now as we breathe! They are EVIL incarnate and unless the PEOPLE wake up and take things into their own hands ALL IS LOST!!” Thornton appears to have been one of the original occupiers. In addition to his anti-government sentiments, Thornton has made a number of anti-Semitic posts to his Facebook page, calling Jews the “synagogue of Satan” and “The DEVIL’S SPAWN from the pits of hell.”
Flipp Todd. Todd is an Oregon Three Percenter who showed up at the rally to support the Hammonds who was then motivated to take part in the occupation of the wildlife refuge. However, he did not stay long but went back to his home in Sherwood, saying that he would go back to the refuge but had to “work some things through first with employer and children”. However, as of January 12, he had not returned.
Steve Turner. Described by the Washington Post as “a retiree from Sandy,” Turner is an Oregonian who traveled to the wildlife refuge after it was occupied.
Neil Wampler (BR). Wampler, a retired woodworker from northern California is an antigovernment extremist who was present at the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014. His ideology seems to be closest to that of the militia movement, given posts that he has made about gun confiscation conspiracies theories as well as comments he has left to Oath Keepers and Three Percenter websites. “These are excellent conditions compared to other standoffs I’ve taken part in,” Wampler, referring to the wildlife refuge occupation, told a reporter from The Guardian. In 2016, Wampler showed up in Olympia, Washington, to take part in a protest – the “I Will Not Comply” rally – against that state’s firearms laws, a protest in which participants deliberately openly violated those laws.
Addendum 3: Federal Appeals Court Supports BLM Grazing Rules, Slaps Down Judge for Anti-Government Bias
Siding with the government in a decades-old battle over grazing rights, a federal appeals court overturned a lower-court ruling in favor of a Nevada rancher and strongly admonished a judge in Reno for abusing his power and exhibiting personal bias against US land managers.
In a pair of decisions issued January 15, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the late Wayne Hage of Tonopah and his family were guilty of trespassing cattle on federal land illegally without a grazing permit and should be subject to fines. The appellate court based in San Francisco also determined that US District Judge Robert Clive Jones had no legal basis to find employees of the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service in contempt of court for doing their jobs.
In remanding the case back to the lower court in Reno, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit took the unusual step of ordering a different district judge to handle the case.
Such a move is warranted “only in rare and extraordinary circumstances, such as when the district court has exhibited personal bias or when reassignment is advisable to maintain the appearance of justice,” Judge Susan Graber wrote in the 3-0 decision.
“We regretfully conclude that the quoted standard is met here because a reasonable observer could conclude that the judge’s feelings against (the federal agencies) are both well-established and inappropriately strong,” she said.
Jones, a former bankruptcy judge in Las Vegas who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003, has had his share of conflict with the 9th Circuit Court. His rejection of same-sex marriage in Nevada in 2012 was overturned by the appeals court in 2014. So was his 2012 effort to pull “None of These Candidates” off Nevada’s ballots.
More recently, Jones was overturned in September 2015 when the 9th Circuit revived a lawsuit against the Nevada Health and Human Services Department over the issue of disenfranchising potential low-income and disabled voters.
In a 104-page ruling in May 2013, Jones largely agreed with the Hages’ argument that they didn’t need a grazing permit because they had existing water rights that entitled them to run their cattle on the federal land in north-central Nevada about 200 miles north of Las Vegas.
The 9th Circuit disagreed: “Defendants openly trespassed on federal land,” Graber wrote. “The ownership of water rights has no effect on the requirement that rancher obtain a grazing permit … before allowing cattle to graze on federal lands.”
Jones issued a wide-ranging injunction against the government at the time, ordering the two federal agencies to issue grazing permits to the Hages and to obtain permission from his court before issuing any future trespass notices against them. He also found two government workers – Thomas Seley of the BLM and Steven Williams of the Forest Service – in contempt of court for their continued attempts to force the Hages to comply with the law.
The 9th Circuit addressed that matter in a separate, four-page unpublished memorandum, saying Jones “grossly abused the power of contempt by holding two federal agency officials in contempt of court for taking ordinary, lawful actions that had no effect whatsoever on this case:
“A dispassionate observer would conclude that the district judge harbored animus toward the federal agencies. Unfortunately, the judge’s bias and prejudgment are a matter of public record.”
Addendum 4: Profile of a “Patriot” – Ryan Payne, Security Organizer or Loose Canon.
Ryan Waylen Payne was born in 1983 in San Bernardino County, and graduated from Chaffey High School in Ontario CA near Riverside in 2001.
Payne enlisted in the Army in July 2001 at age 17, just months before the war on terror started. He trained in the arts of surveillance and reconnaissance at Fort Benning in Georgia, and learned to work as a scout, collecting information on the enemy as part of a small team of six or fewer sent ahead of other troops, often deep behind enemy lines.
He was assigned to the 51st Infantry Regiment of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion from March 2002 through January 2006. He was deployed twice to Iraq and rose to the rank of sergeant.
A mission gone wrong left Payne with the conclusion that he had been deliberately set up to die. His team of six scouts suddenly came across 26 combatants at a Bedouin encampment during a 2005 mission in the Sinjar Mountains. Their plan had included a provision for Apache helicopters and other air support to respond if the enemy had detected the team.
“For some reason, the rear, who was our ops center, was canceling all of our requests for gun runs,” Payne told the Independent. None of the soldiers was killed, but the team was “in a very bad spot for very many hours, fighting for our lives,” he said.
Payne had only a few months of active service left, and the depth of the betrayal wasn’t clear to him until later. Once he was out, he “discovered that I was working for the wrong team if I were in the pursuit of liberty and freedom”.
When Payne arrived back in Southern California in January 2006 to his wife, Pamela Deem, whom he had met in high school and married in 2004, he began looking for answers.
Payne started a company making custom dune buggies and off-road vehicles with an uncle, “listening to heavy metal, hiking and driving fast through the desert”. The company sold high-end vehicles for as much as $100,000, but Payne said it wasn’t long before California put in place more stringent emissions regulations, forcing him out of business, though his company was already losing money because of the 2006 housing crash.
During this time, Payne said he read the Bible, the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the writings of the Founding Fathers. He read about the military and questioned the wisdom and righteousness of involvement in the Middle East.
He also read about the Georgia Guidestones, mysterious granite slabs inscribed with 10 principles in ancient and modern languages that stand in a park in the Southern state, and the United Nations’ Agenda 21, a sustainable development program that many in the patriot movement believe calls for a radical utopia that amounts to totalitarianism.
It became clear to Payne that his experience as a soldier and as a small business owner were two sides of the same coin.
His conclusion: A small group of political and business elites was intentionally making it impossible to make a living in rural America because they wanted to secure the land and mineral resources underneath to consolidate their own power and wealth. Through “social and economic warfare” techniques that include regulations, especially environmental regulations, this group was forcing Americans into cities where they were easier to control. The same group makes decisions about when and where to go to war, and intends to reduce the world’s population to 500 million.
Payne came to believe that the government uses regulations to deliberately undermine the average American. The more he looked, the more he saw a deliberate and nefarious plan being orchestrated by a small number of people wielding enormous power. He saw a pervasive conspiracy to control all aspects of the media, the financial system, the entertainment industry, the military and the government.
More specifically, he came to believe that slavery never really existed in the United States, “an effort by some Jews to control the world” (Payne, himself, is Jewish), that the Founders intended for the states to act as sovereign countries, that taxes are a form of “legal plunder”, that US courts are actually foreign admiralty courts, and that “in most states you have the lawful authority to kill a police officer that is unlawfully trying to arrest you”.
Payne and Deem divorced in 2009, and Payne completed his military service obligation the same year, being discharged from inactive army reserve.
In 2012, Payne moved from Southern California to Montana with another woman, Summer Reid, with whom he has two children. Payne said the two are no longer together. That same year, Payne founded a militia, the West Mountain Rangers, but it has no website or Facebook page and it’s unclear whether it’s an active group.
When Ryan Payne was 10 and living in Southern California, the American militia movement was emerging in the town of Noxon, Montana. On February 15, 1994, John, David, and Randy Trochmann used gun control as fuel to launch America’s first active militia group, the Militia of Montana.
The Trochmanns argued that gun control is not really to control guns, but for “people control” by an evil government. The message resonated in Montana, and crowds came to hear the Trochmanns speak about foreign control of the federal government, the “banking elite” that controlled the world economy, the need for a return to constitutional principles, and the American citizen’s right and duty to stop the tyranny of the federal government by organizing into armed militias. The Militia of Montana added members, and similar groups emerged in other states.
As the militia movement grew in the mid-1990s, federal ownership and regulation of public land became another prominent source of anti-government anger, especially in Western states. Environmental laws, the US Forest Service and the BLM all became sources of suspicion.
The rapid growth of the American militia movement culminated on April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh, a veteran from Michigan, detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.
Though the bombing inspired many extremists and instigated a brief surge in militia growth, it also created polarization within the movement and marginalized militias from mainstream American culture. The number of Patriot groups in the US peaked in 1996, when 858 militia and other extremist groups existed, and dipped to 149 in 2008.
The election of Barack Obama, however, triggered a resurgence in militia activity and sympathy, with 512 Patriot groups in 2009, 1,018 in 2011 and 939 in 2013.
In 2013, Payne passed the Montana exam to become a licensed electrician, but that certification lapsed in 2014. It’s unclear how he makes a living.
On April 6, 2014, Ryan Bundy, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s eldest son, received a call from Payne on his cellphone. Payne offered to use his military experience and Operation Mutual Aid, a coalition of militias and sympathetic people he said he had founded the year before, to protect the Bundy family in their dispute with the US Bureau of Land Management.
Payne believed that what he was hearing about in Nevada was what was happening all over rural America: the US government acting far outside its constitutional authority to control and confine the American people. And he believed that his military oath, to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic, required him to defend Bundy against a domestic enemy.
Payne was the second person in the far-flung patriot community to arrive in Nevada, and he helped disseminate information to militias across the country and arrange the logistics of their arrival. Hundreds turned out. Because of the armed response Payne coordinated, federal authorities retreated without the Bundys’ cattle, and the family declared triumph at what came to be known as the “Battle of Bunkerville”.
Payne took credit for what he called the militia’s “tactical superiority”. “We locked them down,” he said. “We had counter-sniper positions on their sniper positions. We had at least one guy – sometimes two guys – per BLM agent in there… If they made one wrong move, every single BLM agent in that camp would’ve died.”
Though Payne developed close ties with the Bundy family, staying on at the ranch for months, some of his behavior was viewed as divisive – if not dangerous – by other factions in the patriot movement.
Scott Woods, a militia leader from West Virginia, said Payne ordered him and another man to damage BLM equipment even after rangers released the Bundys’ cattle. They rejected the idea, Woods said. And Woods said he also pushed back when Payne ordered him to “throw down with the sheriff” should the sheriff come to arrest Cliven Bundy.
Payne also gained the reputation in some quarters as a hothead. At one point, rumors that Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing drone strike spread through the militia camp at Bunkerville, and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, a prominent group of current and former military and law enforcement members allied with the patriot movement, issued orders to his group to evacuate the “kill zone”, contradicting Payne’s orders.
In a 2014 video, Payne called the Oath Keepers’ actions “desertion” and “dereliction of duty”, discussed shooting Rhodes, and ejected the Oath Keepers from the encampment. The scar of that episode endures today. Rhodes has issued several statements on the Oath Keepers website condemning the Oregon refuge occupation and calling Payne an “agent provocateur”.
Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer, the leader of Veterans on Patrol, a patriot-affiliated group in Southern Arizona that works to bring attention to the high rate of veteran suicide, said he left the Nevada standoff “100% certain” that Payne intended to “commit suicide by government”.
Meyer launched a trip to the Malheur refuge that he characterized as a rescue mission with Payne as its target. Payne refused to leave Oregon with Meyer, whose group got in a fistfight with the Malheur occupiers and soon returned to Arizona.
Payne stayed in Bunkerville for about a month, until he and Ryan Bundy joined an ATV ride through southeastern Utah’s Recapture Canyon in protest of the Bureau of Land Management’s closure of a 14-mile stretch of trail to protect archaeological sites.
In October 2015, he visited Gary Hunt, a prominent patriot blogger and board member of Operation Mutual Aid’s successor organization. Then in November, Payne visited Oregon to meet with the Hammonds.
Payne then helped organize the group that protested the December 2015 arrest of another Bunkerville veteran, Schuyler Barbeau, in Seattle WA. Barbeau was arrested on a weapons charge, but an FBI special agent said Barbeau was suspected of domestic terrorism, including threats on law enforcement.
By December, Payne was living full-time in Burns, occasionally heading to Seattle to attend Barbeau’s court hearings.
Payne had been staying in the background at most occupation events, but on January 18, at the invitation of Ammon Bundy, Payne stood in front of a whiteboard with a borrowed copy of the Constitution, to explain to a group of ranchers why the Constitution is on their side.
Payne drew parallels between the grievances the Founding Fathers leveled at King George and those Payne said he has heard in Harney County and across rural America.
He read from the Declaration of Independence: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
“So if you want to be free,” Payne said, “you have to be willing to give it all up.” Payne firmly believes that, like the Founding Fathers, his “firm reliance on the protection of divine providence” keeps him in line with a plan that cannot fail.
Addendum 5: Department of Homeland Security Predicted Sovereign Citizen Terrorism After Bundy Ranch Standoff
Domestic Violent Extremists Pose Increased Threat to Government Officials and Law Enforcement
Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Assessment, July 22, 2014
I&A assesses that the belief among militia extremists that their threats and show of force against the BLM during the April Bunkerville standoff was a defining victory over government oppression is galvanizing some individuals – particularly militia extremists and violent lone offenders – to actively confront law enforcement officials, increasing the likelihood of violence. Additionally, this perceived success likely will embolden other militia extremists and like-minded lone offenders to attempt to replicate these confrontational tactics and force future armed standoffs with law enforcement and government officials during 2014.
Several incidents in 2014 are identified as having a “connection to the events in Bunkerville” based on news reports and information provided by law enforcement. The most significant incident discussed in the assessment is the murder of two Las Vegas police officers and another civilian committed by Jerad and Amanda Miller. The pair, who had attended the Bunkerville standoff, “expressed that violence was necessary to fight a perceived tyrannical US government apparatus intent on stripping Americans of their rights”. The couple also left a note on the murdered police officers that “exclaimed the attack was the start of a ‘revolution’ and a ‘new day’, suggesting they anticipated further violence, and made statements on their social media profiles indicating their willingness to ‘shed blood’ and ‘die fighting’ to stop government oppression”.
DHS found that there had been eight incidents of “anti-government” violence since March 2011, either in the form of an actual attack or an arrest stemming from a plot that was interrupted prior to to an attack taking place, including:
- March 2011 – Four members of the militia extremist group The Alaska Peacemakers Militia (APM) – including its leader – were arrested in March 2011 for conspiracy to kill judges and law enforcement. APM’s leader was sentenced in January 2013 to 26 years in prison. Three other members received sentences of 26, 12 and 5 years, respectively.
- November 2011 – Four militia extremists were arrested in November 2011 for planning to obtain explosives, guns and a biological toxins for attacks against government personnel, including employees of the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives and local law enforcement. Two were convicted in 2012 for plotting to obtain explosives and two were convicted in 2014 for plotting to obtain the toxins.
- December 2011 – Georgia-based US Army soldiers – arrested in December 2011 – were convicted in 2012, 2013 and 2014 for involvement in a homicide to cover up the plans of their militia extremist group called F.E.A.R. (Forever Enduring Always Ready) that plotted to attack government and critical infrastructure targets including a hydroelectric dam and Ft. Stewart military base. According to court documents, the individuals allegedly stockpiled over $87,000 in firearms and bomb-making components.
- November 2013 – An armed lone offender extremist with an anti-government ideology entered Terminal 3 of LAX on November 1, 2013 and proceeded to the security screening area where he opened fire with an AR-15 style assault rifle. The gunman subsequently shot and killed one TSA Transportation Security Officer (TSO) and wounded two other TSOs, plus a civilian. Another individual was injured fleeing the scene. The suspected gunmen was wounded and is awaiting trial.
- February 2014 – Three militia extremists in February 2014 were arrested by federal law enforcement attempting to buy explosives in furtherance of a plot to allegedly attack the electrical grid and government targets, including DHS personnel and facilities. They are awaiting trial.
- March 2014 – A militia extremist in March 2014 was arrested by federal law enforcement for a series of plots culminating in a plan to allegedly acquire weapons and travel to Washington DC to kill law enforcement and government officials. He is awaiting trial.
- April 2014 – Militia Extremists – many of whom traveled from around the country – joined peaceful protesters at a ranch in Bunkerville, NV and additionally surrounded officers with firearms during an armed standoff over grazing rights.
- June 2014 – Two violent lone offender extremists motivated by anti-government ideology, who participated in the Bundy Ranch standoff, ambushed and killed two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers and a civilian, wounding one more officer before dying in a shootout.
Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes, Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, US Department of Homeland Security, July 2014
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Based at the University of Maryland.
Law enforcement is much more concerned about sovereign citizens, Islamic extremists, and militia/patriot group members compared to the fringe groups of the far right, including Christian Identity believers, reconstructed traditionalists (i.e., Odinists), idiosyncratic sectarians (i.e., survivalists), and members of doomsday cults. In fact, sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, but the concern about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat actually declined for most groups (e.g., the KKK; Christian Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Extremist Environmentalists; Extreme Animal Rights Extremists).
The 2013-14 study results show that law enforcement’s top concern is sovereign citizens. Although Islamic extremists remain a major concern for law enforcement, they are no longer their top concern. Approximately 39% of respondents agreed and 28% strongly agreed that Islamic extremists were a serious terrorist threat. In comparison, 52% of respondents agreed and 34% strongly agreed that sovereign citizens were a serious terrorist threat.
Addendum 6: Up-To-Date Timeline of Malheur Occupation
Saturday, January 2 (day 1): About 300 people marched through Burns, a town of 2,800 and the county seat, in support of Dwight and Seven Hammond (the father and son ranchers who were resentenced to 5 years for arson of federal property), passing by the Hammonds home and the sheriff’s office. The event was organized by 3 Percent of Idaho (a “patriot” group which takes their name from the apocryphal 3% of American colonists who participated in the Revolutionary War).
A small armed splinter group left the march and broke into the closed-for-the-holidays Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters 30 miles outside of town, and threatened to stay until all federal lands were returned to the local ranchers, miners and loggers. They claimed 150 participants, but reporters have counted no more than 20 at any time.
The two apparent leaders of the occupation are Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Cliven Bundy who staged an armed standoff with the BLM over the seizure of his cattle for $1M in unpaid grazing fees. Other veterans of that event were also among those at the Refuge.
In a video, Ammon Bundy said the goal was to turn the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge into a “base place for patriots from all over the country to come and to be housed here and to live here. And we’re going to be staying here for several years.”
In response to the armed takeover, the Burns School District cancelled all school for the week. Brandon Curtiss, president of 3 Percent of Idaho, which organized the protest march, said the occupiers don’t represent his group and distanced himself from their action, as did the Pacific Patriot Network (a northwest patriot umbrella organization), the Oathkeepers (a paramilitary group that participated in the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff), and Bob Wright (a commander of the New Mexico Militia). The Hammond family has also said that the occupiers don’t speak for them.
Sunday, January 3 (day 2): Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement: “These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
Monday, January 4 (day 3): Ammon Bundy claims that an unnamed county official invited his group to stage the occupation, and that local ranchers were supporting them with supplies. He says that his group has taken on the name Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) released a statement condemning the occupation.
The FBI announced they are the lead law enforcement agency responding to the occupation, and are taking a low-key approach, in collaboration with the county sheriff and state police.
Tuesday, January 5 (day 4): Ammon Bundy, the leader of anti-government protesters occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said that the group won’t leave until ranchers, loggers, farmers and other private landowners have wrested full control of the reserve’s tens of thousands of acres. He also said he doesn’t foresee ending the occupation unless the community signals they are no longer welcome.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a statement: “Although the FBI is the lead agency responding to the situation, my top priority is the safety of the people of Harney County and the city of Burns. The Oregon State Police has enhanced its presence in the area, augmenting local and federal public safety resources and assisting with community outreach. I look for a swift resolution that allows Harney County life to return to normal.”
Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) took to the House floor to speak about the frustrations of ranchers and rural citizens in Oregon, “feeling their pain”, saying the Hammonds were treated too harshly, but that he’d rather the armed occupiers realize that they’ve made their case and go home.
“Just a friendly warning from the birding and wildlife photography community to the Oregon terrorists. We are watching your every move, and we have been watching you for a long time. And yes absolutely you are domestic terrorists of the worst kind, and the truth about your decades of constant poaching of protected wildlife around Malheur and other wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and BLM lands has been well-documented.”
Wednesday, January 6 (day 5): Burns Town Hall meeting facilitated by Sheriff Ward with 300 people present allowed local residents to share their feelings and concerns. Many, including the Sheriff, expressed support for some of the issues raised by the occupiers but the overwhelming majority wanted them to leave peacefully, and there were suggestions for a town delegation to accompany the Sheriff to the Refuge and ask the armed militants to go home. One rancher said he’d round up 100 men to ride in on horseback if that would help.
The Sheriff, who celebrated his one-year anniversary on the job the day the occupation began, received a standing ovation before he could even speak to the gathering. Ward said ”I don’t believe that just a small handful of people can come from outside and tell us how to lead our lives,” Ward said. He added: “You’re not invited to come here and bother with our citizens. That’s not okay. That’s not how we live our lives in Harney County.”
“I’m here to ask that we find a peaceful resolution to what’s going on. I’m asking as the Sherriff of Harney County that the people that are occupying our wildlife refuge go home, work out your differences with whoever through the appropriate channels and allow us to get back to our lives.”
Ward asked how many of the attendees at the community lived in the county, and almost everyone raised their hands. When he asked how many wanted to see Bundy and his supporters leave, almost all of the hands remained in the air.
Charlotte Rodrique, the leader of the Burns Paiute Indians said that the armed protesters occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge should go home. “The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here.” Rodrique, who is the tribal chair for the Burns Paiute, said the tribe used land in what is now the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and accused the occupiers of “desecrating” sacred sites.
In 1868, the Burns Paiute Tribe entered into a treaty with the federal government that among other things, guaranteed the protection and safety of the Paiute people and their cultural resources. Six tribal band leaders signed the treaty but the US Senate never ratified it, the agreement was voided and a legal transfer of land never occurred, Rodrique said. “We never gave up our aboriginal rights.”
“Harney County residents don’t need some clown to come in here and stand up for us,” Burns Paiute tribal councilman Jarvis Kennedy said. “We survived without them before, and we’ll survive without them when they’re gone. So they should get the hell out of here. Sorry, but we didn’t ask them here. We don’t want them here.”
Lewis Arthur, who leads a group called Veterans on Patrol and calls himself an anti-violence patriot, arrived with two others, allegedly to remove women and children from harm’s way. Arthur also wanted to remove Ryan Payne, a former friend and fellow participant in the 2014 Utah Bundy standoff, because he claims that Payne wants to become a martyr. Arthur claims he was punched in the head by Blaine Cooper, who then punched his colleague J Dog in the eye, sending him to the hospital. The Veterans on Patrol are encamped across the road from the Refuge, supporting their cause but defying their tactics.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) visited the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to deliver vegan jerky, made from soy, gluten and shiitake mushrooms, to the occupiers, in response to their request for snack foods. They were also hoping to convince ranchers to switch from cattle to crops.
Thursday, January 7 (day 6): The federal government began shutting its offices in Harney County days before the showdown with armed anti-government protesters began, because of mounting hostility and security threats, officials said. With threats against individual employees and a campaign of intimidation by out-of-town ranchers who had been in the isolated area for weeks, federal officials at agencies from the US Forest Service to the Bureau of Land Management started sending more than 150 people home as early as Dec. 30.
The Bureau of Land Management made the decision to close as early as Dec. 28, concluding that the environment around Burns was not safe for its employees, who issue permits to ranchers for grazing and other uses. The US Forest Service, with about 35 employees and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency followed suit. The US Postal Service stopped delivering mail to homes and business in the area last week, although the post office in Burns has stayed open.
Sheriff Ward, backed up by two other sheriffs, met face-to-face with protest leader Ammon Bundy to bring a peaceful end to a weeklong occupation. “I’m here to offer safe escort out,” the sheriff told Bundy.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the occupation of the wildlife refuge “unlawful” and said it had to end. “It was instigated by outsiders whose tactics we Oregonians don’t agree with. Those individuals illegally occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge need to decamp immediately and be held accountable,” she said.
Bundy later told reporters he would not leave until federal lands were turned over to the people.
Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer said “Armed insurrection is terrorism. The situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge shouldn’t be allowed to fester but should be dealt with firmly, swiftly and fairly. The continued disruption to the community of Burns and occupation of a federal facility is unacceptable. Those involved should be arrested and prosecuted”
Friday, January 8 (day 7): Ammon Bundy said they will leave “not a minute too early”.
Police have disconnected the electricity to a building in Frenchglen, at the far end of the nature reserve, to prevent militants from moving to a new facility. Electricity remained on at the refuge, where protestors are using various buildings including the museum and the bunkhouse (that firefighters use in summer).
“During this morning’s press conference, the people on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge made it clear that they have no intention of honoring the sheriff’s request to leave,” according to a statement posted on the Harney County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “Because of that, there are no planned meetings or calls at this time. However, the sheriff is keeping all options open.”
The Harney County Safety Committee, formed at the request of Ammon Bundy, hosted a town hall meeting in Burns to press grievances against the government (the way the Committees on Safety did in regard to the British in the 1770s).
Saturday, January 9 (day 8): The Welcome To Your National Wildlife Refuge sign at the entrance was covered over by a blue sign with large white block letters saying Harney County Resource Center.
LaVoy Finicum said the refuge occupiers are now taking up the cause of other area ranchers who have complaints against the BLM. He wouldn’t name the ranchers, but said the militants plan to dismantle a fence that keeps one rancher’s cattle off some federal land.
Militants are openly driving government-owned vehicles and heavy equipment around the compound, proclaiming that the trucks and backhoes now belong to the local community, putting their new sign to effect.
As Finicum was finishing his morning press briefing, members of the Pacific Patriot Network, a consortium of several groups from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, arrived mid-morning, carrying rifles and sidearms and clad in military attire and bulletproof vests.
Their leader, Brandon Curtiss, said the group came to “de-escalate” the situation by providing security for those inside and outside the compound. About a half-dozen rifles were visible among the two dozen new arrivals. They aren’t staying in the compound, Curtiss said, but are patrolling the perimeter of the reserve.
Todd MacFarlane, a Utah lawyer acting as a mediator, said occupation leader Ammon Bundy doesn’t want the armed visitors there.
Joseph Rice, a spokesman for the Pacific Patriot Network, told reporters that his group presented occupation leader Ammon Bundy and other protesters with “articles of resolution”, saying that his group wants to move the sides to an end to the standoff.
After leaving the refuge, members of the Pacific Patriots Network convoy, which Curtiss said numbered at least 50, arrived at the Harney County Courthouse where they passed their “articles of resolution” to Sheriff Wade. Curtiss, who said his group had already delivered the plan to the FBI at the Burns Municipal Airport, reiterated his wish to spark a dialogue, “so that everyone can go home”.
The Burns school district announced that school would be resuming on Monday after a week-long security closure. But law enforcement authorities including the FBI and sheriff’s deputies from across the state have converted the Burns school district building into a makeshift command post with around-the-clock security.
Ammon Bundy reportedly met with politicians from several states, including Representative Cliff Bentz, the Republican state representative whose district includes the wildlife refuge.
Sunday, January 10 (day 9): Ammon Bundy avoided reporters all weekend as some of the protesters began to leave the occupation and as local residents and activists who had previously backed Bundy demanded that he and his militiamen retreat. Bundy failed to show up to the militia’s daily morning press conference on Saturday and then canceled the news event altogether on Sunday.
Carol Bundy, Ammon’s mother, sent an email to supporters asking them to send her son’s group things like sleeping bags, wool socks, cigarettes, toiletries, food, coffee and “French Vanilla Creamer”.
79-year-old grandfather of four and Burns resident Robert Saunders went to Malheur to check on some young burrowing owls at the crack of dawn, when he was confronted by a “red-faced pudgy man with a big gun”, and used an old high school wrestling move to take the man down after being threatened. [This is from a satirical website, but it sounded too good to leave out.]
An FBI spokesperson at the entrance to the refuge told reporters that this is the first reported instance of any conflict between the occupying militant group and locals. “We’re hoping this is an isolated incident and we’re asking the elderly not to knock any more militants on their ass” said the grinning FBI agent.
Monday, January 11 (day 10): Ammon Bundy said at a media briefing: “We know if we continue to go down the road we have been continuing to go down, we will ultimately create a war among the people. This is an effort right now, a peaceful effort to make sure that war never comes, to make sure that there is not a war between government and the people.”
Harney County schools reopened for the first time since Bundy and his followers seized buildings at the refuge.
“We’re planning on going down to the ranch adjacent here to the Malheur Refuge where they’ve cut off the largest portion of their range,” Bundy said in a video. “We’re going to go take that fence down and get those ranchers back to ranching on their range.”
Ostensibly at the request of local rancher Puckett, Bundy used a backhoe with a US Fish and Wildlife Service emblem on the side to remove 80 feet of barbed-wire fence and fence posts that mark the border between a section of the refuge and private land – a fence that was just erected last year after the refuge received a $100,000 grant.
“If they take down the fences, it hurts the Refuge, but it also destroys the positive conservation impacts reaped from decades of direct collaboration and sweat equity paid by the Harney County (and surrounding) communities, ranchers, landowners, partners and friends.” – Jason Holm, assistant regional director for external affairs at USFWS.
Bundy told reporters that he and his followers are going through file documents stored at the refuge to expose how the government has mistreated local ranchers who use federal land in the area, including Dwight and Steve Hammond. He said his group is not accessing computers used by refuge employees.
Deschutes County to the west has sent two deputies and two correctional officers to Burns to helping with the situation. And Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson was at Monday night’s community meeting of 200, in support of Sheriff David Ward. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said at a community meeting that members of the armed group have been harassing law enforcement officers and US Fish and Wildlife employees as they go about their business in the community. He issued a statement late Monday saying law enforcement “will not be intimidated” and offering tips to residents on “prudent safety measures” to avoid trouble. Ward told community members, “there’s an hour glass and it’s running out”.
Harney County Judge and County Commission Chair Steve Grasty put the security cost at “$60,000 to $70,000 a day, and said “we’re gong to send Mr. Bundy the bill”. And he pleaded with the locals: “No matter how you feel, do not bring food and supplies up to the refuge.”
Garrett VeneKlasen, the executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which represents sportsmen, including hunters and anglers, arrived in Burns and said “What I see is a lunatic fringe of extremists who have taken my land over. I came here form New Mexico to tell all these people to get the hell off of my land.”
Mark Heckert of Washington state had a cardboard sign reading: Get the flock off my wildlife refuge. To Heckert, it’s all a way to take away federal land belonging to the American people and sell it off to big corporations – a “huge land and money grab”.
Tuesday, January 12 (day 11): Robert “LaVoy” Finicum said that the occupiers plan to hold a community meeting at 7 PM Friday at a yet to be disclosed location in Burns to explain themselves and inform residents when they will leave.
Travis Williams, a 46-year-old Harney County rancher, who had met and collaborated with Bundy last month in advance of the march and rally, and other Harney County residents who were previously aligned with Bundy, were publicly requesting that Bundy and the rest of the occupiers leave the refuge and allow community representatives to take over the cause of fighting for increased local control of federally managed lands.
Williams is part of the Harney County Committee of Safety that Bundy helped form but which has since severed ties with the militia leader.
While Ammon Bundy has repeatedly denied government computers were being used by militants, Oregon Public Broadcasting has confirmed that Department of Interior computers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are being used to make a website (http://defendyourbase.net/) for the occupation. David Fry from Ohio set up shop in a building the militants want to turn into a media center and used a flash drive with Linux to access a government computer, posting video of himself, a “List of Serious Injustice” and a link to LaVoy Finicum’s novel, Only By Blood And Suffering: Regaining Lost Freedom. Fry’s Google+ account shows he regularly posts anti-Semitic, homophobic, and pro-Nazi propaganda on social media.
Wednesday, January 13 (day 12): The Bundy group says the reason they tore down a section of fence was to give rancher Tim Puckett access to land that had been blocked for years. But Puckett said that he wasn’t aware of the group’s plans, that he has never spoken to Bundy, and “they didn’t have my permission to do anything”. Puckett says he works with federal officials on land management and his employees have repaired the fence.
According to a video by Jon Ritzheimer, the occupiers are receiving a “mind-blowing” amount of hate mail, including dildos and phallic candy.
The Center for Biological Diversity announced that public rallies will be held across Oregon in support of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the collaborative work that has been going on there for the last decade. Events are planned for noon at the Portland Federal Plaza and the Eugene Old Federal Building.
At the daily press briefing, Ammon Bundy said the Friday meeting originally scheduled for the community of Burns is now uncertain. That’s because county officials have refused to allow Bundy or his supporters to schedule a meeting using county facilities, the fairgrounds or other government buildings. The meeting may happen the following week.
Thursday, January 14 (day 13): In response to concern expressed about the Paiute 4,000 artifacts stored at the refuge headquarters and the ancient villages, burial sites and petroglyphs scattered throughout the refuge, Ammon Bundy said people interested in archeology are welcome to explore the refuge, but that cattle ranchers and loggers should have priority when it comes to land use. “We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim,” Bundy said. “There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important.”
Occupiers constructed a new road at the complex to connect kitchen and volunteer facilities with another road. Their action was quickly condemned by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Paiute tribe whose artifacts are scattered across the refuge. Refuge officials told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the road went through an archaeological site significant to the Burns Paiute Tribe.
Judge Grasty said he’s not limiting the militia from meeting with community members. “Daily, Mr. Bundy is having a public press conference. Have the meeting at the same time. We are doing nothing to restrict him from having a public meeting,” Grasty said, noting that public safety is the biggest concern.
Oregon State Police stopped a vehicle for a lighting violation. The driver – Dwane Kirkland, of Hamilton, Montana – was arrested on charges of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. He was in possession of a handgun and a rifle, and the vehicle he was driving had switched plates and was uninsured.
Friday, January 15 (day 14): Multi-jurisdictional police agencies have set up a command center at the Harney County Courthouse Building, which is protected by concrete road barriers.
Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of LaPine OR, is was arrested by Oregon state police and deputies from several county sheriff’s offices on suspicion of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. He was to be booked into the Deschutes County Jail in Bend with bail set at $10,000, officials said. He is the first person arrested in connection with the armed occupation of the wildlife refuge.
In 1995, Medenbach was convicted on federal charges for illegally camping on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, threatening armed violence and protecting his campsite with booby traps and explosives.
An email from the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service in Portland, for dissemination to area Forest Service employees, those with the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, warned that self-appointed judges associated with the right-wing sovereign citizen movement might “try to issue indictments, serve papers, or arrest local officials and/or federal employees.” Those papers would have no legal authority, but would serve to bully workers.
One hundred people demonstrated against the Malheur occupation in Bend OR.
Brian Cavalier, 44, who was known on the Oregon refuge as “Booda Bear”, was arrested by municipal police near Phoenix AZ after they discovered he had an outstanding warrant. He had left the Refuge on January 5.
Saturday, January 16 (day 15): The morning news briefing devolved into a shouting match, complete with a bullhorn and name-calling, after a trio of conservationists tried to speak. Members of the Center for Biological Diversity, led by executive director Kierán Suckling, showed up to counter-protest.
The Arizona-based nonprofit has more than 990,000 members and activists dedicated to protecting wild places and endangered species. Suckling stepped up to the mic, but before he could finish, the occupiers started screaming and booing.
“We’re here to speak up for public land, which belongs to the public,” Suckling continued over the roar. “These people are trying to take the land away.”
Pete Santilli, a right-wing radio host who was once under scrutiny by the Secret Service after saying he wanted to shoot Hillary Clinton, pulled out a bullhorn and started screaming “communist” and “fascist” – then flipped on a siren and said, “You’re under arrest for bullshitting.”
Later, Santilli led a group of about 20 to demonstrate outside the FBI’s makeshift Harney County headquarters at the Burns Municipal Airport.
LaVoy Finicum displayed a wicker basket full of security cameras he said they’d removed from utility poles, saying the FBI could have them back.
A documentary crew, working on a film about Western land use, is at the Malheur headquarters interviewing the occupiers.
“It needs to be very clear that these buildings will never, ever return to the federal government,” says 54-year-old Nevada rancher LaVoy Finicum, who wears a cowboy hat and a Colt 45 pistol holstered on his hip.
“Everything is happening just like it’s supposed to,” said Ammon Bundy. “That’s what you have when you have divine guidance that is assisting. The right people come. The right words are said.”
Sunday, January 17 (Day 16): Saying “this hostile occupation is a clear act of sedition,” National Federation of Federal Employees President William R. Dougan said federal authorities have “enabled lawlessness to go unchecked in the eyes of the nation and emboldened additional militia sympathizers to descend on the area. Enough is enough. The militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge must be arrested.”
The group Getting Occupiers of the Historic Oregon Malheur Evicted (G.O.H.O.M.E.) is working to “turn the refuge occupation against itself”. Brothers Zach and Jake Klonoski of Eugene OR launched the group’s fundraising efforts on Sunday morning and by Monday, the Occupy-A-Thon had more than 550 pledgers and raised more than $23,000. People pledge a given amount of money for each day the occupation continues.
The funds will go to four organizations: Burns’ Paiute Tribe (which claims title to refuge land), Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions (advocating for better gun laws), the Southern Poverty Law Center (which researches extremist groups) and the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“Every day that they stay, they’re funding the very groups that fight against their actions,” Klonoski explained.
Jake Klonoski, 35, is a Stanford Law School graduate and former Navy officer. Zach Klonoski, 31, is a University of Oregon Law School graduate who works for Portland OR Mayor Charlie Hales, and the brothers are the sons of Chief US District Judge Ann Aiken, who is the judge who re-sentenced the Hammonds in October.
Oregon State Police discovered a traffic crash near Highway 20. An investigation revealed the driver – Darrow Burke, of Ukiah, California – lost control on an icy corner and rolled. He was cited for no operator’s license, and told OSP troopers he had been at the refuge for the past week.
Monday, January 18 (Day 17): LaVoy Finicum, who stopped paying federal grazing fees after supporting Cliven Bundy’s standoff over $1 million in unpaid fees, said that the occupiers have recruited ranchers to stop paying the federal government for the right to run cattle on public land. The organizers are planning a “signing ceremony” on Friday, January 22, where ranchers will sign documents renouncing their obligation to pay fees tied to the federal grazing allotments. Two ranchers – one from Oregon and one from New Mexico – have agreed to sign the papers and “I hope they bring a couple more in tow,” Finicum said. The documents will be sent to the US solicitor general, he said.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy, LaVoy Finicum and Ryan Payne held a public meeting Monday night in the unincorporated community of Crane, 30 miles southeast of Burns and just northeast of the Refuge. They told 30 local ranchers that they had no obligation to pay fees for grazing on federal land because, in their view, federal ownership of land is unconstitutional. The group implored the Harney County ranchers in the meeting to tear up their grazing leases, telling the ranchers to “lay claim” to the area’s federal lands. Not one of the 30 ranchers was convinced.
A contingent from the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group based in Tucson, planned to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day by hiking on the refuge. The center’s executive director, Kierán Suckling, said the hike is meant to “bear witness to this great injustice and show the militia thugs that America won’t be scared away from its public lands by guns and threats”.
Tuesday, January 19 (Day 18): Simultaneous rallies in support of the Malheur Refuge, organized by Audubon Society of Portland, took place in Portland, Bend, Eugene and La Grande OR.
An online petition asking the Obama administration to arrest occupiers has less than 10,000 signatures. The White House does not respond to any petitions until they reach 100,000 signatures.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward released a statement that concluded:
The Bundy group continues to break its repeated promises to leave the refuge if the community asked them to do so. On Monday, January 4, the community did just that – and the Bundy group failed to leave.
I then personally met with Ammon Bundy, who has proclaimed to be the leader of the occupation, on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to discuss a peaceful resolution. I asked Ammon and his group to leave, which he stated he would not do. From that point forward, the occupiers at the refuge have been considered by law enforcement (local, state and federal) to be criminals – and they need to vacate the refuge.
It’s clear at this point that the Bundy group does not have the interests of Harney County in mind – they’re in it for their own agenda. We will continue to work to keep you safe while they continue to not keep their word.
The second Harney County Community Meeting was held at the Burns High School gymnasium and, as the Bundy brothers and a few other occupation leaders sat in silence, County Judge Steve Grasty faced them and said, “It is time for you to go home.” A chant then grew in the gymnasium among the 300 present: “Go, go, go, go, go.” Many residents had the same message, and others criticized county leaders for not acting against the occupiers. At the end, the Bundy’s and friends left in silence.
A broad group of conservationists, state lawmakers and tribal members in Nevada called for the federal government to arrest the Bundy boys. Battle Born Progress, the state advocacy group leading the call from Nevada, is also sending a care package to US Fish and Wildlife officers based in Oregon to show their appreciation for handling the standoff. “It’s just inexcusable,” Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus said. “We’ve essentially exported our terrorists out to Oregon.” A sign at their press event said “We’re sorry Oregon for exporting the Bundys.”
Wednesday, January 20 (Day 19): In place of the regularly scheduled news conference, Bundy told reporters that more supporters of the occupiers’ cause from across the country – including a legal team and security detail – are arriving to contribute to their “important work”.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown castigated federal authorities for not having taken action against the armed group occupying the wildlife refuge, and said she plans to bill the US government for what it has been costing Oregon taxpayers, amounting to a half million dollars so far. She called on federal authorities to quickly end the occupation and “hold all of the wrongdoers accountable”.
The governor also wrote to FBI Director James B. Comey and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch: “I request on behalf of my fellow Oregonians that you instruct your agencies to end the unlawful occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as safely and quickly as possible.”
On the Malheur Refuge Facebook page was “an open letter to our friends, our supporters, and many curious about what’s going on here, from the staff of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to our friends, partners, and the American public”:
Many have asked us to comment on the ongoing situation at Malheur NWR. We have refrained because we care deeply for the community, and want to ensure our words do not inflame an already heated situation. However, we believe it is important that our views and position are known.
We believe many in the media (as well as those sympathetic to the illegal occupiers) were surprised to hear that the community – while frustrated with the Hammond situation – did not leap to the support of the militants. We are not surprised.
For over 100 years, our Refuge employees have been members of this community. We study, watch our kids play basketball, worship, commune, and interact with our fellow Harney County citizens – not as a ‘we vs. they’ – but as an ‘us’.
In a community with nearly 40% of working adults engaged in some form of government, we are all touched or involved in the public process. In Harney County, that means we talk. We have cups of coffee. We have arguments. Together we knit our brows, and together we knit scarves. We understand what those currently occupying the Refuge don’t understand – that Harney County isn’t afraid of tough talk.
We can have effective disagreements and either find resolution, find compromise, or simply agree to disagree. But we do it with respect for the rule of law, and know that our areas of agreement and cooperation are infinitely more powerful than the differences we may face. Mostly, we face those differences together with open dialogue and open gates – not intimidation and threats. We have access to each other, because we are not afraid to confront difficult situations or have difficult conversations.
It pains each of us that we are missing our obligations to you – as church leaders, as 4-H advisers, as friends, and as school volunteers. We hope to be back soon and pick up where we left off.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support. We know (as you do too) that it is not our Refuge that has been occupied; this is Harney County’s and America’s Refuge.
We are excited to be part of the eventual healing process for our community. We believe that this difficult situation will lead to even stronger bonds between the Refuge and the community that has supported us. We feel for you, because we are you.
We will get through this – because:
We. Are. Harney. County.
Thursday, January 21 (Day 20): In a new video posted to the Bundy Ranch’s Facebook account, several occupiers search boxes of artifacts that belong to the Paiute tribe. LaVoy Finicum talks about how poorly the artifacts have been stored and proposes a dialogue with local Paiute, to “protect the heritage of the Native American people”.
But Charlotte Roderique, chairperson of the Burns Paiute tribe, said “All they are doing is making enemies out of the people they professed to support.” She previously explained that the tribe has entrusted the refuge with protecting its cultural rights, and said “I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of meeting with them.” And Jarvis Kennedy of the Burns Paiute Tribal council said earlier: “We as Harney County people can stand on our own feet. We don’t need some clown to come in here and stand up for us.” Kennedy said he was too upset to watch all of Finicum’s video. “It’s like me going through their drawers at their house.”
Charlotte Rodrique contacted federal officials asking that Finnicum and his companions be charged if they “disturb, damage, remove, alter or deface any archaeological resource on the refuge property”.
Ammon Bundy, in response to more than a dozen voice mail messages left on his phone by an FBI negotiator, showed up unannounced at the FBI staging area at the Burns helicopter airport, and spent nearly an hour talking to “Chris” on a phone provided to him by an FBI agent.
He said his group wouldn’t leave until practical steps had been taken to get the refuge out of federal control and ensure the refuge buildings were never again used by the federal government. “How would that get done?”, the negotiator asked. “I don’t know,” Bundy said. “We could put more thought to that.”
“Are you here under authority of the sheriff?” Bundy asked the FBI agent. When the negotiator said the sheriff had asked for federal help, Bundy responded, “You do not have the people’s authority to be here.”
The FBI released this statement:
“The FBI recognizes that many in the community have questions about why we are here and our role in helping to end the occupation of the wildlife refuge. We are here to work closely with Sheriff Ward and our local, state and federal partners to protect the safety and welfare of this community. This occupation has caused tremendous disruption and hardship for the people of Harney County, and our response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution.”
Friday, January 22 (Day 21): Ammon Bundy abruptly terminated a second meeting with the FBI at their makeshift field camp at the Burns Airport, when he realized that the FBI negotiator, based 130 miles away in Bend OR, would not be there for a “face-to-face” meeting with Bundy surrounded by supporters and media. Bundy also again questioned the right of the federal agents to intervene without authorization from the Sheriff (the only law enforcement authority that Bundy recognizes).
The 16 federal employees who worked at the refuge have vacated not only their offices but also their homes. Out of concern for safety, they pulled children out of school as they temporarily moved elsewhere in the Northwest.
“Before staff left the community, most were working from home, and across the board, staff were certainly seeing militia members outside their homes using intimidation tactics,” said a refuge official with the US Fish and Wildlife Service who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Families were approached at the local Safeway and were followed in vehicles. Those types of things did take place.”
“Harney County has been paralyzed, and we have been gripped with dysfunction with our federal-government offices closed,” said Tom Sharp, a local rancher and treasurer of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. “We need to recognize what is going on in the refuge as an active crime scene. We need to isolate and confine the occupiers and cut them off from the comforts they are enjoying like telephone and the Internet.”
Saturday, January 23 (Day 22): Adrian C. Sewell of Silver City, New Mexico, was the only rancher who renounced his US Forest Service grazing contract, for the 33,000 acres of the Gila National Forest he uses, at the event organized by Ammon Bundy and attended by about 120 people – both supporters and opponents of the occupation – at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. “I don’t mind standing out and standing alone,” Sewell said. Sewell was convicted in Stillwater OK in 2002 on eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and in 2003 in Texas for aggravated assault, which earned him a three-year state prison sentence. (A few months later, Sewell renewed his USFS grazing contract.)
The group Getting Occupiers of the Historic Oregon Malheur Evicted (G.O.H.O.M.E.) has raised $60,000 since it began its “Occupy-A-Thon” one week ago, with funds to be distributed equally to four groups that oppose the goals of the occupiers at Malheur Refuge.
One of the protesters taking part in the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a 68-year-old former woodworker and, according to court records and authorities, a convicted killer.
Neil Sigurd Wampler was 29 in August 1977, when he was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of his 62-year-old father who was asleep in bed with a 16″ eye bolt. Wampler claimed it was because his father had insulted his girlfriend at a time they were both staying in his father’s house. His girlfriend said that his father ordered him to leave.
During an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive, Wampler denied he is the same man. But his unusual name and date of birth matched court and prison records. A commander at the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that the man at the refuge is a convicted murderer he knows as Neil Wampler in California.
Wampler said he drove to Oregon from his home near San Luis Obispo after seeing an online call for people to support the cause in Burns. He admitted to being armed, although the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Wampler cannot legally have a gun because of his murder conviction.
Wampler, originally charged with first-degree murder, pled guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to serve five years to life. He served four years and another year of parole.
Wampler, who has been outspoken “against any federal infringement of our Second Amendment rights”, participated in the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada and the 2015 occupation of the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon, before joining some of the same militants at Malheur.
“We are peaceful people, I certainly am,” said Wampler. “And the only circumstance, the last extremity, I think that any gunshots would be fired is if the federalists tried to root us out of here. They would find out then, that we are not playing. We’re not gonna give an inch. And I say that very seriously.”
Sunday, January 24 (Day 23): 425-pound Kelly Gneiting, former long-haul trucker turned five-time US sumo champion, challenged New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie to 10 sumo matches, saying the group’s occupation of the refuge will end if Christie wins just one round. Gneiting claims to be Chris Christie’s older brother.
Monday, January 25 (Day 24): Harney County Judge Steve Grasty. who planned to host a community meeting Monday over the standoff. has canceled it due to safety concerns. He said authorities had become aware of plans to protest the meeting and block the entrance to the county senior center, where it was to be held. Earlier Grasty had said that a no-guns policy would be strictly enforced at the meeting.
Paiute tribal chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique, in a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, asked federal law enforcement officials to prevent the militants occupying the refuge from moving freely on and off the federal preserve. “Allowing the militants free passage from the Refuge means that our cultural patrimony is unprotected and easily transported outside the Refuge for sale or misappropriation by the militants,” Rodrique wrote. The refuge houses more than 4,000 tribal artifacts as well as maps, site records and “confidential documents related to the Tribe’s cultural resources”.
The tribe met last week with US Attorney for Oregon Bill Williams, Oregon State Police, staffers with Gov. Kate Brown’s office and a representative from the FBI to express concern over the militants’ handling of their cultural items. “We are more concerned than ever that some of these artifacts will go missing when this is all over,” Rodrique said in a statement.
Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service also said they were upset by the militants’ actions toward tribal artifacts. “These items were protected under lock and key before the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” said Miel Corbett, a spokeswoman with the USFWS. “If (the militants) are truly seeking to protect the cultural heritage of the Burns Paiute Tribe and the American public, we recommend that they would do well to leave the refuge and let us get back to the stewardship we’ve been entrusted to carry out.”
Harney County Schools Superintendent Marilyn McBride said that fear and stress is common among both school students of all ages and school staff. The occupation is also costing the district a lot of money, including about $4,000 per day for extra security and counselors, $100 per day rent for space for their Residential Treatment Center for special needs students (as their normal space is being used by law enforcement for the Harney County Joint Information Center), as well as $179,500 for teacher salaries for the week schools were shut down.
Kenneth Medenbach, who was arrested on January 15 for stealing a vehicle from the Malheur Refuge, appeared in Medford’s federal court Monday for violation of the terms of his release from a charge of illegal camping on federal land last year. Part of his terms of release were that he would not occupy federal land or commit any crimes.
The G.O.H.O.M.E. Occupy-A-Thon has raised more than $78,000 from more than 1,500 people, most of them from Oregon, to support the groups the Bundy’s oppose.
Tuesday, January 26 (Day 25): 54-year-old Joseph Arthur Stetson of Woodburn OR was arrested at a Hines OR gas station after police responded to a call about an armed man. It turned out that Stetson was armed with a pellet gun. Stetson told authorities he was heading to Burns to join the protest at the Malheur Refuge, wanted to be the Bundy’s personal bodyguard, and was going to try to kill one of those “mother fucking federals” if he could.
After the state trooper arrested Stetson for DUI, he got belligerent, and his rant was caught on a police body camera. “I’m going to kill you, you sons of bitches. You let me go right now, or I’ll kill you, I promise,” Stetson said, calling the deputies Nazis and “Obama sons of bitches”.
Stetson repeatedly touted his credentials as a retired US Army Green Beret Colonel, saying “You unleashed a lethal freakin’ warrior” and calling Obama a “Muslim piece of shit”. He was booked on DUI and resisting arrest.
Stetson was previously convicted of burglary and menacing charges after breaking into a mobile home in 2009 in what deputies called a domestic rampage, leading to several homes being evacuated during a standoff with police. He was arrested for first-degree burglary, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and violating a restraining order when he entered the mobile home, broke out windows and destroyed much of what was inside.
Stetson is also running for the US Presidency in 2016 (and no mention of any military record):
my name is Joseph Arthur Stetson i am runnig for president of the united states of america 2016 if you are smart you will put a cowboy in the white house that will do good for this great country of ours instead of a crooket politicion that just lies to the american people and lines his packets with gold when i am president i will go only 100 persent by the constitution the VA, Immigration, social security, k to 12, healthcare can be fixed in six months or les with the us constitution and the american citizens so please vote for Joseph Arthur Stetson for president 2016 of the united states of america.have a good day americans.
I have been married for 35 years a good father good grandfather I am a hunter fisherman farmer cowboy I have been working for a CDL driver for 20 years landscaping construction I volunteered as a brush fire fighter I was homeschooled from K to 12th grade went to the University of Guadalajara in Mexico 4 years college I’m a good American love God and country and I care for my fellow Americans I would make a good president only go 100% by the Constitution
Tad Houpt, of Canyon City, organized a meeting at the John Day Senior Center, about 70 miles north of Burns, to discuss people’s constitutional power and authority as well as federal land mismanagement and corruption. Houpt said he plans to speak, and he has also invited Ryan Payne, who has participated in the occupation of the refuge. He plans to ask Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer to speak as well.
“If it Goes South…”
Harney County Judge and County Commission Chair Steve Grasty said: “Somebody will do something stupid. If it goes south, it’ll go south because Mr. Bundy or his friends started something.”
Federal authorities arrested Ammon Bundy and several of his followers in a traffic stop on Highway 395 at 4:25 PM local time. Shots were fired after FBI agents, Oregon State Police and other authorities made the stop. It’s not clear who fired first. An Air Link helicopter was dispatched to Burns. Highway 395 at the intersection of US 20 north of Burns – the road to John Jay – was closed in both directions from Burns to Canyon City. Harney District Hospital is on lockdown, as Ryan Bundy was transported there under federal custody with a non-life-threatening injury.
Two militant vehicles were stopped Tuesday afternoon on the way to a public meeting in John Day, 70 miles north of Burns, to discuss the occupiers’ views on the Constitution and federal management of public land. The meeting went on as planned from 6 to 8 PM, but got tense when the arrest was announced and the audience told that the “featured speakers” would not be coming.
John Day is in Grant County, whose sheriff, Glenn Palmer, has a history of anti-federalism, called the occupiers “patriots”, and has spoken in support of two of the militant’s demands: releasing the Hammonds from jail and that the FBI leave law enforcement to local authorities. Palmer was scheduled to speak at the John Day meeting.
Highway 395, going from Burns to John Day, was closed for 56 miles, with police blockades along the way.
Ryan Bundy suffered a minor gunshot wound to the arm and was taken into custody by the FBI and the Oregon State Police. Also arrested were his brother, Ammon Bundy, Ryan W. Payne, Brian Cavalier, and Shawna J. Cox (the author of a book about Cliven Bundy called Last Rancher Standing).
The FBI said one individual “who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased”. The identity of the person killed in the shootout was not released, but the daughter of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum said her father was to be part of the entourage going to John Day, and others have confirmed that Finicum is dead.
Nine militants were in two vehicles. At first, both cars complied with an order to pull over, but then the lead vehicle took off, but didn’t get very far before hitting a snow bank. Finicum jumped out of that vehicle “brandishing a firearm” and was shot and killed. Ryan Bundy was also struck by gunfire and wounded in the arm. He was treated for the gunshot wound at the Burns hospital before being released Tuesday evening to the police.
In a separate event in Burns an hour and a half later, Oregon State Police arrested “Captain” Joseph O’Shaughnessy. Several hours later, Jon Ritzheimer, surrendered to police in Arizona on the conspiracy charge. Police also arrested Pete Santilli, an independent broadcaster known for his aggressive manner and live streaming of refuge events.
The FBI said all of those arrested face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.
Arrested on Highway 395 at 4:25 PM:
- Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho
- Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana
- Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah
Injured by gunfire on Highway 395:
- Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada (non-life-threatening injury to his arm)
Killed by gunfire on Highway 395:
- LaVoy Finicum, 54, of Cane Beds, Arizona (had previously stated he’d rather die than be taken)
Arrested in Burns, at 5:50 PM:
- Joseph Donald “Captain” O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona (involved with the North American Coalition of Constitutional Militias and vigilante Mexican border patrols)
Arrested in Burns at 6:30 PM:
- Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio (a right-wing online talk show host who was embedded with the militia since the occupation began)
Arrested in Peoria, Arizona at 8:30 PM (after posting a YouTube video asking for donations):
- Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, of Peoria, Arizona (who was known for instigating anti-Muslim protests and selling “Fuck Islam” t-shirts)
FBI agents were setting up a perimeter on Tuesday night to keep outsiders from joining the militiamen still holed up at the refuge, and urged those remaining to leave. The FBI will be searching vehicles moving through the area and will arrest those who do not cooperate. Only ranchers who use land in the area would be allowed through. Officials said people leaving the Refuge would have their names confirmed and vehicles searched.
Mug shots of Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox (top row)
Ryan Payne, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Peter Santilli, Jon Ritzheimer (bottom row)
All but Ritzheimer are being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center, and are scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 PM Wednesday in US District Court in Portland.
Additional Public Meetings Planned
John O’Keeffe, president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, monitored the Bundys’ efforts to get his members to tear up their grazing permits – and was ready to express opposition publicly to an action that would be economically devastating to cattlemen.
In the end, it was clear ranchers weren’t signing on to the Bundys’ revolt and the movement wouldn’t reach beyond the fringe groups represented in the occupation compound. But Bundy wasn’t giving up. That’s why he and Finicum were on a recruiting trip to John Day.
Also, a militia meeting had been scheduled for Thursday in Ontario (the largest city in Malheur County, on the Idaho border), and Bundy was scheduled to speak at a meeting Friday in Jordan Valley in southeastern Oregon.
It appears that part of the FBI decision to act may have been based, in part, on this apparent recruiting effort to expand Bundy’s support network, and draw more ranchers into the cause.
In a statement, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said her “highest priority is the safety of all Oregonians and their communities,” as the federal investigation continues. She asked “for patience as officials continue pursuit of a swift and peaceful resolution.”
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) released a statement Tuesday evening:
I am pleased that the FBI has listened to the concerns of the local community and responded to the illegal activity occurring in Harney County by outside extremists. The leaders of this group are now in custody and I hope that the remaining individuals occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will peacefully surrender so this community can begin to heal the deep wounds that this illegal activity has created over the last month.
The locally elected leaders and state, local, and federal law enforcement are to be commended for their close coordination in working to address this crisis.
Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Tuscon-based Center for Biological Diversity, who has spent the past two weeks in Burns protesting the occupation, issued a statement to Oregon Public Broadcasting Tuesday after hearing the news:
I’m saddened to see this standoff culminating in violence. But the Bundys and their followers showed up armed to the teeth and took over lands that belong to all American people. We hope and pray those remaining at the compound surrender peacefully and immediately. Here’s hoping cooler heads now prevail in southeastern Oregon and we can return to a semblance of peace and civility.
The Bundy family facebook page posted this:
Levoy Finicum was Shot and murdered in Cold blood today in Burns Oregon by the FBI and State Law enforcement. He had his hands up and was shot 3 Times. This Man Is one of the best Patriots, Husband, Father, Grandfather, friend and Neighbor, that this world will ever know. Spread this far and wide!
The resolve for principled liberty must go on. America was fired upon by our government and one of liberty’s finest patriots is fallen. He will not go silent into eternity. Our appeal is to heaven.
Robert Finicum’s ex-wife, Kelly Whatcott, said she learned from their children that he was shot and killed Tuesday. “He did not mean any harm to anyone,” Whatcott said in a phone interview. “He believed fiercely in freedom. I know he carried around a holster and a gun, but he’s a cowboy.”
Bundy clan patriarch Cliven Bundy, whose refusal to pay grazing fees sparked another standoff at his Nevada ranch in 2014 with many of the same characters, called the arrests and shooting “a wake-up call”. Bundy said:
This whole battle is over a constitutional issue where the federal government has no rights within the state or at least rights in a sovereign state. This is a total disaster to be happening in America where we have I’m guessing federal people killing innocent people. We believe that those federal people shouldn’t even be there in that state, and be in that county and have anything to do with this issue. … I have some sons and other people there trying to protect our rights and liberties and freedoms, and now we’ve got one killed, and all I can say is, he’s sacrificed for a good purpose.
Wednesday, January 27 (Day 26):
Oregon State Police confirmed that its troopers were involved in the traffic-stop shooting. The state police said it would investigate the officer-involved shooting, with help from the Deschutes County Major Incident Team and the Harney County District Attorney’s Office.
Arianna Finicum Brown confirmed her father’s death, saying “he would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved.”
FBI officials told those still at the compound that they were free to leave and should do so. There may be as many as 40 people staying in the refuge buildings, including women and children. Police blocked the primary route into the refuge – two-lane Sod House Lane – about a quarter-mile west of the Refuge entrance. A large front-end loader sat across the road, with other police vehicles parked on the shoulders. The roadblock could be seen from the fire tower where the occupiers have posted around-the-clock lookouts.
Authorities initiated what they called a “containment” with checkpoints that include FBI snipers, promising to arrest any unauthorized people attempting to travel into the refuge.
Police convoys were seen traveling south on Oregon 205 toward Diamond and the roads snaking into the Refuge from the south, and south on Oregon 78, likely heading for the Princeton area and the eastern road to the refuge headquarters.
Brand Thornton, one of Bundy’s supporters, said he left the refuge Monday and wasn’t sure what those remaining would do. “The entire leadership is gone,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wouldn’t blame any of them for leaving.” Thornton called the arrests “a dirty trick” by law enforcement.
The sister-in-law of one of the people still in the refuge told the media that her relative wanted to leave the compound because several occupiers were preparing an aggressive stand against police.
Only a few people left, said Gary Hunt, who arrived Sunday from California to support the occupation. Among those still there was Ammon Bundy’s wife, Lisa, and Blaine Cooper and Jason Patrick, two of those involved in the original occupation and active in its leadership. “The rest have decided they’re going to hold their ground,” said Hunt, a board member of Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers. Hunt left the headquarters late Tuesday and talked to reporters while parked six miles from the refuge.
Jason Patrick, a Three Percenter from Georgia who also participated in the Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014, said by phone from the Refuge they would stay until the “redress of grievances”. “I’ve heard ‘peaceful resolution’ for weeks now and now there’s a cowboy who is my friend who is dead – so prepare for the peaceful resolution,” Patrick said.
Amid concerns that Finicum’s killing could escalate violence, the Pacific Patriots Network, Oath Keepers and the Idaho III% – groups sympathetic to the occupiers – said in a joint statement they were issuing an immediate “stand by” order for their followers:
It has come to the attention of PPN that many individuals are responding to this news as a ‘Call to Action’. The Pacific Patriots Network is issuing an immediate “STAND BY” Order to all those who are mobilizing to the peaceful city of Burns, Oregon. We will not pursue any action until all of the facts have been pieced together regarding the traffic stop and the arrest of Ammon Bundy. During this time, cooler heads must prevail. We do not wish to inflame the current situation and will engage in open dialogue until all of the facts have been gathered.
Again, we must reiterate the current standing order. No mobilization of any kind is to take place until every piece of speculation and hearsay have been verified or dismissed. We will maintain the high road and continue to communicate with federal officials until a complete time line has been developed. In light of recent events PPN continues to support a peaceful resolution to the occupation of the refuge. As more information is made available to the PPN it will be released accordingly and via the appropriate channels.
– Pacific Patriots Network Media Team
First-Hand Accounts of Arrest & Shooting
Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the spokesman of the refuge occupation, was shot and killed after he charged police during a roadside stop north of Burns on Tuesday, according to a man on Facebook who claims to be the driver of one of two vehicles involved in the highway shooting.
Mark McConnell posted a video to Facebook Wednesday morning, recounting the Tuesday afternoon scene that led to Finicum’s death.
In his video, McConnell said Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier were in the vehicle he was driving to John Day for a community meeting. He said Finicum was driving a pickup that carried Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox and an 18-year-old woman.
He said as they traveled on US 395, police vehicles pulled in behind them and stopped them. McConnell said he was removed by police first, then Ammon Bundy then Cavalier.
He said Finicum’s pickup was stopped about 200 yards away, and one passenger already was on the ground in handcuffs.
McConnell said Payne and Cox later recounted how Payne and Finicum got into a “heated discussion” about what to do. “LaVoy was passionate about this, about the movement,” McConnell said.
McConnell said he noticed movement, and Finicum “took off” in the pickup with the remaining passengers. He said Payne and Cox described encountering a police roadblock about a mile north on the highway and apparently tried to get around it, becoming stuck in the snow.
“When he exited the vehicle, the rear wheels were still spinning,” McConnell said. “He charged at law enforcement” and was shot.
McConnell disputed earlier accounts on social media that Finicum was shot while on his knees with his hands up.
McConnell said he and the 18-year-old were taken to Burns for questioning and later released.
His account couldn’t be immediately confirmed, but several details matched accounts from law enforcement sources, according to the Oregonian.
Raymond Doherty, of Pilot Rock OR was a witness to the shootout on Highway 395. He said when he first arrived at the scene north of Burns around 4:40 PM, “there was a shootout going on. So we kind of watched it, videoed it.” He said he saw 3 protesters and as many as 15 people with the FBI and OSP.
Shots were fired, dogs began barking and “after a very short time they returned fire”. “I saw them shooting at each other – “maybe 12 to 15 seconds, possibly 5 or 6 shots. I really couldn’t tell who was shooting, doing most of the shooting. I did see some shots hit the pickup,” Doherty said. Three people surrendered, he said, coming out one at a time with their hands up.
New Leadership – Decision to Stay
Jason Patrick, a former roofer from Georgia, finds himself the leader of the remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He said Wednesday that he isn’t sure how the occupation will end, but still hopes for a peaceful resolution.
Patrick leads an ever-dwindling band of anti-government occupiers after the arrest of the top leaders on Tuesday. A steady trickle of occupiers has taken up police on the offer to leave, including one of the other last remaining leaders, Blaine Cooper (aka Stanley Blaine Hicks, convicted in 2009 of felony aggravated assault).
Patrick said people in the compound met overnight to vote on whether to abandon the refuge, but “the majority vote was to stay”. Patrick told Oregon Public Broadcasting that five or six group members remained inside the refuge.
He spent time on the phone Tuesday night with FBI negotiator “Chris” who had been trying to have a conversation with Ammon Bundy, but was told that everyone had to leave the refuge.
Meantime, a black helicopter and several armored vehicles were stationed at the Burns Municipal Airport, about five miles east of town, while police in paramilitary gear and carrying scoped rifles were patrolling the airport entrance.
News Conference, Burns OR, January 27, 2016, 11 AM:
Good morning. My name is Greg Bretzing, and I am the Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in Oregon.
For the past month, the FBI – along with our partners at the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and the many other federal and local agencies – have had a very deliberate and measured response. We worked diligently to bring the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to a peaceful end. Some of those actions were seen, some unseen. But, because this is an on-going investigation with some armed individuals illegally remaining in the refuge, we cannot get into details as to every action tried or taken.
I will say that the armed occupiers were given ample opportunities to leave peacefully. They were given the opportunity to negotiate. As outsiders to Oregon, they were given the opportunity to return to their homes and have their grievances heard through legal and appropriate means. They chose, instead, to threaten the very America they profess to love with violence, intimidation and criminal acts.
Yesterday, the FBI and our partners took the necessary actions to start bringing this situation to an end. We worked to ensure that we could do so in the safest way possible – removing the threat of danger from innocent citizens. We continue to work to empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible.
Eight people were arrested, and one man died yesterday as we attempted to take him into custody. Because there is an on-going investigation by the Deschutes County Major Crimes Team on behalf of OSP related to this piece of the investigation, I will not be able to comment on the specifics.
I would, however, ask for your patience as the shooting investigation works its way through that outside process. At the appropriate time, the Medical Examiner’s office will release the decedent’s identity, and OSP will address the details of the event.
Let me be clear: It is fully and unequivocally the behavior and the choices made by the armed occupiers that have led us to where we are today. And, as the FBI and our partners have demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.
Containment road blocks are now in place around the Refuge. The disruption that the good people of Harney County have had to endure over the last few months will continue – for now.
If the people at the refuge want to leave, they can do so through the checkpoints where they will be identified. If they have questions or concerns, they can call the negotiators at the number that has been provided to them.
As I conclude I want to share my promise to the people who live and work here – who are raising their families here – that we will continue to look for safe, peaceful and productive ways to end this armed occupation. We recognize that the sooner we do that, the sooner the citizens of Harney County can start healing this community they cherish so much.
An emotional Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said this outcome did not have to happen and the occupation can end without further bloodshed. He finished:
If we have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on that in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up and rebel, we go through the appropriate channels. This can’t happen in America.
Eight Leave Refuge – More Arrests
Since the establishment of checkpoints in the early morning hours of January 27, a total of eight people have left the refuge. Of those, the FBI released five and arrested three.
At approximately 3:30 PM, the FBI made probable cause arrests of Duane Leo Ehmer, age 45, of Irrigon, Oregon, and Dylan Wade Anderson, age 34, of Provo, Utah. At approximately, 7:40 PM, agents made a probable cause arrest of Jason S. Patrick, age 43, of Bonaire, Georgia. All were in contact with the FBI, and each chose to turn himself into agents at a checkpoint outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The arrests were without incident.
Each man faces one federal felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 372.
Eight Militants Formerly Charged in Court
Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Shawna Cox, and Peter Santilli appeared before Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman in US District Court in Portland on Wednesday.
Each has been charged with one felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats. The United States Attorney’s Office could file additional charges at a later time.
The judge ordered all suspects to remain in jail until at least Friday, saying they are a danger to the community and, with no ties to Oregon, flight risks. Beckerman set a detention hearing for Friday, giving the defendants a chance to argue for their release pending trial.
A federal complaint against all 8 suspects tied to the refuge occupation was unsealed in federal court on Wednesday. The complaint lists reasons for Tuesday night’s arrests, and says the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles. It says they were prepared to fight “and that if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town”.
The affidavit also described harassment, threats and intimidation of federal employees that began well before the occupation. On December 18, 2015, a woman wearing a BLM shirt was shopping at the Safeway grocery store in Bums, and was confronted by two men, one of whom she identified as Ritzheimer. The person with him stated that they know what car she drives and would follow her home and burn her house down. Since that incident, she observed a black pickup truck, similar to the one they drove away in, outside her residence. The following week, a white pickup truck with a big rebel flag sticker on the back window aggressively tailgated her, flashing lights and driving erratically. She also saw the black pickup truck outside of her place of employment early in the morning hours of Christmas Day.
Jon Ritzheimer, arrested in Arizona, made a brief appearance in federal court in Phoenix on Wednesday, and will stay in jail until a detention hearing next Tuesday.
Ammon Bundy Says “Stand Down”
Through his attorney, Ammon Bundy has asked those militants who remain at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to “stand down” and go home.
Ammon Bundy is the only one of the six militants who were arraigned who has his own attorney. The rest accepted court-appointed public defenders because they could not afford private counsel.
Live-Stream Bluster from Malheur
Livestream video from inside the Malheur complex shows an assault-rifle-armed and very agitated man – a 3%er who has been at the occupation at least since January 12 – stating that “they’re coming to kill us”. He said that “the media has been waiting for a bloodbath… now there’s going to be one.” He urged patriots to come fight for their country:
Get here! Get some! This is history in the making! There are no laws in this United States now, this is free for all armageddon, any L.E.O., or military, or law enforcement or feds who stand up and fuck their oath and don’t….a bide by their oath, are the enemy…. if they stop you from getting here, kill them!
David Fry, the 27-year-old occupier from Cincinnati who has been the IT guru, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that only a small group of holdouts remained at the secluded outpost. “We’re just camped here by the fire,” he said. “I’m waiting on the FBI calling.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, black SUVs and utility trucks carrying floodlights passed through the barricade and parked to illuminate the Refuge entrance.
B.J. Soper, co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network and a coordinator for central Oregon Oath Keepers, sat in his truck outside the Refuge. “I would think it’s over at this point,” said Soper, who came to pick up Jason Patrick (who was arrested Wednesday evening). Soper said he had communicated with the protesters through a liaison and said that at one point, about 10 people remained at the refuge. He urged them to leave, too, but he was not sure they would do so. “I think the others are going to fight,” he said.
Thursday, January 28 (Day 27): Reading from a prepared statement from Ammon Bundy, his lawyers said he continues to call on the remaining occupiers to go home. “My message still remains. Turn yourselves in. Do not use physical force.”
Stewart Rhodes of Oath Keepers reported that a Montana man abandoned the refuge Thursday morning, leaving just four occupiers.
The four remaining at the Refuge are: David Fry of Blanchester, Ohio; husband and wife Sean and Sandy Anderson of Riggins, Idaho; and Jeff Banta of Elko, Nevada. Sean Anderson has been told there is a federal warrant for his arrest. Fry said FBI negotiators told him the others would be allowed to leave without facing arrest.
“We all want to leave,” Sandy Anderson said. “We’re here, and we’re worried we’re going to die.” Fry said people leaving the refuge had taken most of the food and supplies, but that many guns had been left behind.
Sean Anderson is the man who put out the video call for patriots to join him in “Armageddon”.
Sean Anderson has convictions for resisting an officer, drug possession, trespassing and several instances of disorderly conduct. Fry has convictions for drug possession and disorderly conduct.
Fry’s social media accounts included posts that are anti-Semitic, homophobic, pro-Nazi and in support of the Islamic State. A message on his Google + page reads, “obama needs to be hung after being found guilty for TREASON!!” Others were tagged #Hitlerwasright and #Pray4ISIS.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced a no-fly zone over the Refuge and the Burns Airport.
Update on Initial Arrests & Shooting
Two vehicles with nine militia-related individuals inside were identified and pulled over.
Authorities got out of their vehicles to make arrests, when one of the suspects’ vehicles – a full sized four-door truck – sped away, the sources said. But authorities had already set up a roadblock to stop any escape.
The driver of the speeding truck apparently saw the roadblock at the last minute, veering off the road and hitting a snow bank.
At that point, the group’s spokesman, Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum, exited the truck and was told to surrender, sources familiar with the incident said.
He was moving his hands up and down, but he was not complying, according to a source familiar with the case. At some point, Finicum was seen reaching for his waistband, which was viewed by officers as a threat. Another source said that Finicum was seen reaching for a gun multiple times.
That was when officers fired at Finicum, the sources said. The shooting was caught on tape by a law enforcement camera. Federal authorities are considering whether or not they will release the video
An official with knowledge of the incident said that an Oregon State Police officer fatally shot Finicum.
The FBI removed barricades and reopened highways surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns on Thursday afternoon. Highway 205 and Highway 78 are now open to traffic.
Law enforcement sources on the scene said road blocks are being consolidated to accommodate local residents and ranchers.
Around 4 PM, a roadblock was set near Sodhouse Road and the road leading to the Malheur field station. A convoy of vehicles, including at least 2 armored vehicles, was seen headed toward the field station.
18-Year-Old Woman in Finicum’s Truck Describes Shooting
Posted to YouTube late Tuesday was a video statement by a woman who said she was Victoria Sharp – an 18-year-old passenger in Finicum’s pickup during the highway shooting. Sharp said officers shot at Ryan Payne first, prompting Finicum to drive away. Then, she said, police “just started firing at us.” After ramming into a snowbank, she said, Finicum got out of the pickup and was shot while his hands were in the air.
That report sparked an outcry from the Pacific Patriots Network militia group, which issued a call Thursday for “thousands” of its members to descend upon Harney County to pressure the FBI into leaving.
That statement, however, is contradicted by the FBI’s statement and the unusual public release of a live video of the shooting.
FBI News Conference & Video of Shooting
Thursday evening, Special Agent In Charge Greg Bretzing described the arrest and shooting incident of January 26 and showed a video taken from an airplane. Here are the relevant elements of his statement:
We know there are various versions of what occurred during this event: most inaccurate, some inflammatory. To that end, we want to do what we can to lay out an honest and unfiltered view of what happened and how it happened.
At approximately 4:25 PM on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, FBI and OSP began a law enforcement action to bring into custody the people riding in two separate vehicles as they traveled between Burns and John Day. The FBI did have a plane in the air, and what I am about to show you is a video from that plane.
The details that I am about to provide to you are based both on an analysis of this video and some ground-level observations of agents and troopers on the scene.
Because the operation lasted more than 25 minutes, we are showing you two of the most pertinent clips today. The entire unedited video from the start of the traffic stop through the surrender of all individuals will be available to the media and the general public on the FBI’s YouTube channel.
The video picks up a few seconds before the FBI and OSP vehicles pull in behind the jeep – the second vehicle in line. The jeep quickly pulls to a stop while the white truck – driven by LaVoy Finicum – continues some distance up the road. Some law enforcement vehicles stay with the jeep while others continue following the white truck. Over a period of several minutes out of camera view, the following people exit the jeep without incident:
*The driver – who was not charged and will not be named
Looking at the white truck… about four minutes into the video … Ryan Payne exits through a back door. It’s difficult to see behind the trees, but in the lower right hand corner you can see him with his hands up being approached by the law enforcement officers and being taken into custody.
There is a period of approximately 3 minutes and 47 seconds where the truck sits on the road. We have edited it for time here, but it is available in the raw, unedited version on the FBI’s YouTube channel. Throughout this time, agents and troopers are providing verbal commands to the occupants to surrender. We can’t comment on what may have been going on in the truck at this time, but those details may come out later as part of the overall shooting investigation.
When we come back to the video, the white truck leaves the scene at a high rate of speed. It travels some distance… quickly approaching a vehicle roadblock in the roadway.
As the white truck approaches the roadblock, there is a spike strip across the road but it appears Finicum missed it as he attempted to drive around the roadblock. He nearly hits an FBI agent as he maneuvers to the left. The truck gets stuck in the snowbank.
Finicum leaves the truck and steps through the snow. Agents and troopers on scene had information that Finicum and others would be armed. On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket. He did have a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in that pocket.
At this time, OSP troopers shot Finicum.
Approximately 30 seconds after the shooting – law enforcement officers at the scene deployed flash bangs to disorient any other armed occupants. Shortly after that, they deployed less-lethal sponge projectiles with OC capsules. Those OC capsules would be similar to pepper spray.
Over a period of several minutes agents and troopers worked to safely remove the remaining truck occupants, and to take them into custody. Those people included:
*And another woman, who was not arrested and will not be named
As soon as the agents and troopers were confident that they had addressed any further threats, they provided medical assistance to Finicum. That happened about 10 minutes after the shooting.
Agents and troopers did find 3 other loaded weapons inside the truck. They included two loaded .223 caliber semi-automatic rifles. There was also one loaded .38 special revolver.
Different Perceptions Within the “Patriot” Community
From the Bundy Ranch Community Facebook page:
AMBUSH! LaVoy was murdered in cold blood with his hands up; just as Ammon said. They did not even tend to him until 10 minutes later.
Our hearts are breaking; we will never forget. We will stand peaceful and principled to restore liberty. #justiceforlavoy
The day before, the Bundy Ranch page shared an audio clip from Victoria Sharp, the 18-year-old woman who said she was in the truck driven by Finicum when he was shot, in which she gives her account of the incident.
Sharp said that Ryan Payne was trying to convince officers to let her and another woman out of the truck, when officers fired. Then Finicum sped off, yelling that he was going go “talk to the sheriff” before ramming into a snow bank, she said.
“He got out of the car and he had his hands in the air and he was like, ‘Just shoot me then. Is this what you want? Just shoot me’. And they did – they shot him dead.”
“They shot him like right there,” said Sharps. “He was just walking, with his hands in the air and I saw it, I swear to God just walking with his hands in the air, and they shot him, they shot him dead, and then after he was down on the ground they shot him three more times.”
She says the gunfire didn’t stop there, saying she heard more than 100 shots. “We were praying like so hard and we were screaming like please stop, please stop, please stop, and they were just riddling us with bullets and kept gassing us over and over,” said Sharps.
Others, including the self-proclaimed “liberty speaker” Gavin Seim, who organized the 2014 “I Will Not Comply” armed demonstration at the Washington State Capital against expanded background checks, remained similarly convinced Thursday that the aerial footage showed an unjustified shooting.
“The facts show clearly LaVoy was murdered. He was shot while his hands were still in the air,” Seim wrote on Facebook. “Let’s make sure the world knows it.”
A page called “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom Support Group” referred to the fatal shooting as a “cold blooded assassination”.
Members of patriot groups, militia networks and other anti-government activists Thursday seemed wary of making claims about what happened during the highway standoff based solely on the FBI’s aerial footage.
“There’s so much that doesn’t make sense,” said Brian Miller, a commanding officer of the national Three Percenters (a group that pledges armed resistance to gun control efforts and federal government overreach.) Miller and his group have criticized the Oregon occupation in the past, arguing that it’s not the right time or place for this kind of stand, though he sympathizes with Bundy’s motives.
He said his group has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for dash-cam and body camera footage of the shooting and arrests, which he said are necessary to make an “educated decision” about how to respond. “I don’t want to make any statement until I see that,” he said.
Finicum’s family posted this statement on Facebook:
We thank all those reaching out to us in love during this difficult time. Your faithful prayers are felt. Please keep praying and keep using your voice to get the truth out. This fight against tyranny is not over. Press forward.
Forgiveness is what we can extend and understanding is what we want.
Christ was and is LaVoy’s exemplar. Though there are evil and conspiring men at work, Christ still forgave the executioners for they knew not what they did.
Civil War Law Used to Indict Occupiers
The law under which the Malheur occupiers have been charged – Title 18, United States Code, Section 372: Conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats – was signed into law on July 31, 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln.
The Confederacy began seizing federal buildings as states seceded, and there was not any federal law prohibiting people from plotting to overthrow the government or impeding the work of federal officers. The only charge available was treason, and its successful prosecution required an actual act of war, a charge with a very high burden of proof.
So, three months after the Civil War began, Congress took up legislation that would make anti-government conspiracies illegal. House Resolution 45 made it a crime to try to destroy the United States government, to impede the execution of any US law or to take US property by force.
Oddly enough, the law does not appear to have been used during the Civil War. The law also has rarely been invoked in the modern era – there have been fewer than 30 prosecutions over the last 50 years, said former Assistant US Attorney Anders Folk.
But in those rare cases when prosecutors have invoked the conspiracy statute, it’s been used against environmental activists disobeying government orders and anti-war activists protesting in military recruitment centers.
It made sense for the armed Malheur Refuge occupiers to be charged under the Civil-War era statute, experts say, because like the Confederates, the occupiers rejected federal power.
Friday, January 29 (Day 28): The last four occupiers of an Oregon wildlife refuge have posted another video in which they say they want pardons for everyone involved in the nearly month-long standoff. David Fry said he asked the FBI whether it was possible to “get out of here without charges,” but “they keep saying that’s not possible”.
Eleven people have been arrested, and a judge has said none of them will be released from jail until the standoff ends. The remaining militants inside are David Fry of Blanchester, Ohio, husband and wife Sean and Sandy Anderson of Riggins, Idaho, and Jeff Banta of Elko, Nevada.
A deal with the FBI seemed to be in place Thursday, but it required Sean Anderson to turn himself in to the police. His wife, Sandy, refused to leave him. Fry and Banta were said to have accepted the negotiated deal, but because of Sandy Anderson’s refusal, the four made a pact to stay together until the end of the standoff.
The FBI, according to the militants, is prepared to wait them out if necessary, and negotiations are not moving forward at this time.
Though his lawyers, Ammon Bundy said, “My message still remains. Turn yourself in. Do not use physical force.” In the statement, Bundy said he wants to enter Phase 2 of the protest, and urged the militia to use the legal system to further their mission. “We can do this though courts, this is the constitution, it is ours and we will use it,” Bundy’s statement said.
Back in Nevada, however, Cliven Bundy is encouraging those remaining at the ranch to keep fighting. “We are going to have to fight this battle over and over if we give up right today,” the elder Bundy said.
The G.O.H.O.M.E. Occupy-A-Thon has raised $85,000 for four groups who represent interests the occupiers oppose, with pledges for every day the occupation continues.
Pre-Trial Detention Hearing
In court papers seeking detention Friday, federal prosecutors in Portland explained why they believed Ammon and Ryan Bundy and the others arrested this week were flight risks and posed a danger to the community.
“In this case, all defendants deliberately and publicly disregarded repeated orders, requests and pressure to obey the law over a sustained period of time,” prosecutors wrote. “They did so in a manner that endangered, and continues to endanger, the residents of Harney County, Oregon.
“Critically, the alleged crime was not born out of impulse – it was deliberate and designed to undermine authority at every stage.”
Prosecutors expressed concerns that if freed, the defendants would return to the wildlife refuge or another federal facility to “assert their claimed authority over federal lands”.
All but one of the 11 defendants have no ties to Oregon. Many have long been associated with armed conflicts with the government and have rejected the government’s authority, prosecutors said.
The only woman arrested so far, Shawna Cox, will be allowed to go home while her case makes its way through the court system. But US Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman says that won’t happen until after the armed occupation ends. Beckerman also said Joseph O’Shaughnessy doesn’t have to remain in custody, noting that he didn’t spend his nights at the refuge.
Beckerman said she might also release citizen journalist Peter Santilli, but wasn’t ready to make an immediate decision. The other occupiers, whom Beckerman considered key players, were denied pre-trial release.
“There are no conditions I could impose that would ensure the safety of the community. I’m worried about him occupying another government building,” Beckerman told the hearing in Portland.
Bundy repeated his call for the remaining occupiers to go home, and said the occupation was about a message and “never about a standoff”. Judge Beckerman said she rejects any argument that the occupation was a peaceful operation based on freedom of speech.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 3, 2016, and arraignment is set for February 24, 2016.
From the Holdouts
Sandy Anderson said, in a speakerphone conversation with an attorney from the Refuge: “It’s either all of us out or all of us dead.” Sean Anderson said he and the others want authorities to give them immunity from prosecution before they will leave the site. He asked the lawyer to “start making phone calls and get us amnesty”.
LaVoy Finicum’s Family Calls Foul
Relatives of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum said he posed no threat and they were not accepting the authorities’ assertion that he was armed.
“LaVoy was not ‘charging’ anyone. He appears to have been shot in the back, with his hands in the air,” the family of the Arizona rancher said in a statement through their attorney. “At this point we will await the outcome of any investigation, but based on the information currently available to us, we do not believe that LaVoy’s shooting death was justified.”
FBI Expert Supports Tactics
Clint Van Zandt served in the FBI for 25 years, including about six as the agency’s chief hostage negotiator. He was involved in many major negotiations, including with David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, whose compound near Waco, Texas, was the focus of a 1993 siege by federal agents, which ended in the deaths of more than 80 people.
Here is his perception on the response to the Malheur occupation:
The authorities, federal and state and local, showed infinite patience. The FBI did what they should have done, kept a low profile, allowing the state and the sheriff to do the upfront negotiations. They gave it a chance to resolve itself. They probably decided that if we get the leaders separated from the rest of the band, the leadership will break down. The individuals inside may not be as dedicated.
Tactically and psychologically, it made all kinds of sense to do what they did. You’ve separated them from the rest of the group. Their access to guns and ammunition is limited. They’re in tight quarters. They were trying to resolve it nonviolently. The last thing you want to do is create a martyr for this cause.
LaVoy Finicum had already verbalized that he didn’t want to be taken. He didn’t want to go to jail. That starts to verge on what we call suicide-by-cop mentality. I would not fault law enforcement if they shot him multiple times because they wanted to stop the threat.
Now you’re going to see a high-profile 360° corridor thrown up around the refuge. Nobody is going in. Nobody is going out. No one bringing in food or water. I think that’s over with. The line has been drawn in the sand. We’re going to resolve it.
I think that there may well have been a belief within the federal government that this group of individuals is attempting to provoke us. Let’s give them space. Let’s let them flap their arms. Let’s give them as much latitude as we can. We don’t want to add fuel to the fire. We don’t want to play into their hands to get more attention to themselves, to get more individuals to join them.
Saturday, January 30 (Day 29): Ammon Bundy’s attorneys announced that “there’s nothing further that can be done” on their end to bring closure to a 29-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County.
Since his arrest Tuesday, Bundy, the leader of the occupation, has made multiple statements via his attorneys urging holdouts to go home.
Attorney Mike Arnold said the message reached the remaining four occupants still encamped at the Refuge. They also connected the militants to a pro bono attorney, he said, per Bundy’s request.
Bundy is disappointed with the remaining militants, said Lissa Casey, Bundy’s other attorney. “What they’re doing out there right now detracts from any good that can come from this,” Casey said.
But Sean Anderson, one of the last men (and one woman) standing at the Refuge, rejected the plea from Ammon. Responding to the final request to “stand down”, transmitted through Ammon’s wife Lisa, Anderson said: “Your husband and your brother-in-law and all your friends are in prison right now because they do what they want to do. I have to submit to people I don’t believe or trust. You say Ammon is directed by God. So am I.”
In a video stream from the Refuge, Sandy Anderson said, “It’s either all of us out or all of us dead.”
Singer Jordan Page posted “The Ballad of LaVoy Finicum (Cowboy’s Stand for Freedom)” on YouTube, perpetuating the false story that a “member of Citizens for Constitutional Freedom was killed by police with his hands above his head”.
A protest rally drew more than 100 people. Approximately 30 vehicles – clad in US, Confederate and Gadsden (“Don’t tread on me”) flags – rolled through the streets of Burns at 6:00 PM Saturday over the death of LaVoy Finicum.
A lone woman showed up to oppose the rally. Jen Hoke, of Burns, carried a sign saying “Militia Go Home’.” “These people are spreading a message of hate,” Hoke said.
3% of Idaho has called for a protest Monday at the Harney County Courthouse in Burns.
Sunday, January 31 (Day 30): About a dozen people paid their respects Sunday afternoon at a makeshift memorial that has sprung up where rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed by police last week on US Highway 395 north of Burns.
The mourners wiped tears, prayed and laid a copy of the US Constitution on a large wooden cross that has been planted at the site.
The mourners at the makeshift memorial Sunday included Brandon Curtis, a founder of the Pacific Patriots Network, which is demanding the removal of law enforcement officers from Burns. “We’ve had enough,” Curtis said. “This stops now.”
The network said it had additional rallies planned for Monday in Burns and called for like-minded people to gather in the small Eastern Oregon town. “This is a call to action against an armed, militarized police force,” said B.J. Soper, a network leader. “We want to protest this armed insurgency taking place by our federal government,” Soper said.
The Changed Face of Burns
Before last fall, Burns OR was a sleepy, neighborly ranching town. Over the past month public meetings by the county and by the Bundy-inspired “Harney County Committee of Safety” have featured emotional appeals and heated exchanges. As they took sides on the occupation, government support and land use issues, some people who used to be friends are not friends anymore, said Dauna Wensenk, city manager in Burns. “It has torn us apart as a community,” she said. Healing, she said, will start with understanding one another.
Harney County Judge (and county executive) Steve Grasty talked on the phone with US Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, about how better understanding of federal laws, more collaboration and smoother implementation of rangeland projects could benefit the government and the county.
After the call he said he would like to identify 10 or 12 projects, such as fence building, and “just get these done”.
Responding to the question of what is next for Harney County, Wyden gave this response:
“Once this standoff is resolved, I will work on getting reimbursement for local law enforcement. I am continuing long-running work to strengthen and improve collaborative efforts such as the success in avoiding an endangered species listing for the sage grouse. Those efforts will be focused like a laser on amplifying the voice of rural Oregonians who want solutions.”
US Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, whose district includes Harney County, also weighed in:
“… when this (is) done and the cameras’ glare turns away from rural Oregon, the healing process will be a long one. Widespread frustration will continue until people in rural America feel like they are being heard and meaningful changes are made to federal land management policy.”
Meanwhile, protesters – many of them armed – are arriving to demand the resignation of Harney County executive Judge Gasty and Harney County Sheriff Ward, whom some believe were part of the militarization of Burns that led to LaVoy Finicum’s shooting death.
Outside the Harney County Courthouse in Burns, FBI agents, Oregon State Police troopers and sheriff’s deputies from around the state have stood watch day and night. The agents, troopers and deputies are likely to be there even after the occupation, until tension in the rural county settles. And FBI agents still are the only federal workers venturing to their workplaces.
When the occupation finally ends, the buildings at the refuge headquarters will be considered a crime scene. Federal investigators could take weeks to tally damage and search for hazards.
“They got a ton of buildings and a ton of equipment, and they got to look at all of it,” said Grasty.
Much Ado About Nothing
The Oregonian wrote on January 31:
[Ammon Bundy’s] group damaged the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, taken over Jan. 2. The headquarters compound will be a crime scene for a week or more once all the protesters are gone. Then, displaced federal workers will return, going building by building, room by room, to assess the damage.
The most profound wreckage, however, is among the 7,000 people of Harney County. Those supporting the occupation found themselves staring across a social chasm at friends and neighbors who abhorred Bundy’s arrival and his tactics… That deep canyon won’t be bridged soon, local residents say.
Bundy followers frayed nerves in the area but accomplished little of what they claimed they had come to do. The militants didn’t deliver any meaningful help to Susan Hammond, the wife of convicted rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. and their son Steven, whose re-sentencing sparked the occupation.
While they brought attention to the frustration of ranchers and rural residents, their protests drowned out a competing message – that Harney County is, as one state official said, the “epicenter of collaboration” in the west between government, ranchers and environmental groups.
In the end, Bundy and his gang didn’t turn over a single acre of federal ground or shave so much as a day off the prison time facing the Hammonds.
A Third “Eye-Witness” Story
Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah, was arrested Tuesday with Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne, who were in the vehicle with her and Finicum. She was released on bail Friday, and has shared details of the arrest and shooting.
Cox said Finicum was driving, and she was in the back seat with 18-year-old Victoria Sharp, who has not been charged. Bundy was in front, and Payne was also in the vehicle. Police vehicles pulled up behind them and Payne put his hands out the window and was shot in the wrist. Payne got out and was taken into custody.
Cox said Finicum drove off, raced towards the roadblock and hit the brakes. “We kind of slid through the snow,” she said. “Then bullets started flying.” [Police said they used less-than-lethal rounds, including flash-bangs and OC sponges.]
Finicum jumped out but Cox didn’t see what happened because she was on the floor. “He was yelling, ‘Just shoot me, just shoot me, just shoot me,’ That’s all he said. And then they did.”
Cox said in the phone interview that Finicum was wearing a holster with a pistol in it when he was shot, and questioned why he would reach for a gun in his pocket.
Monday, February 1 (Day 31): Lawyers for Ammon bundy have appealed a judge’s decision to keep him in jail pending trial, saying their client should be released with a GPS monitoring device and orders he not leave Idaho except for court appearances.
US District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman is expected to hear the matter Tuesday, when he also considers the government’s challenge of the release of another member of the armed group, Joseph O’Shaughnessy.
Of the 11 militants arrested, only one – Shawna Cox – has been released from jail.
Last Occupiers Go Silent
After 30 days of near-continuous digital broadcasts on YouTube, Periscope and Facebook, the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has gone offline. David Fry, one of the four remaining militants who has frequently posted videos of the group on YouTube, said that they had lost access to the Internet.
Fry also said that the FBI made it so the occupiers can’t make outgoing calls on their cellphones.
Fry briefly answered a call and hung up, and now calls placed to Fry and Sean and Sandy Anderson have gone straight to voicemail, with the message “the person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time”.
In one of the last videos Fry posted before the group went silent, he captured a phone call between the group and Doug Giddings, the Sheriff of Idaho County, Idaho, Saturday. Sheriff Giddings’ jurisdiction includes Riggins, Idaho, current hometown of Sandy and Sean Anderson.
Giddings said a community member from Riggins asked him to reach out to the group, and he agreed. Giddings expressed sympathy for the occupiers viewpoints, and called the federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers many of them face overreach on the part of federal prosecutors.
But Giddings said, regardless, he encouraged the Andersons to surrender and accept the possibility of facing arrest.
More than 200 Burns and Harney County residents carried signs that said, “Get out of our town” and “We love the FBI” and screamed “Go Home! Go Home!” at a group of nearly as many anti-government militia members who had come to protest last week’s police killing of LaVoy Finicum.
The local residents timed their protest to start 30 minutes before a rally called by the “patriot” and “militia” groups angry about the death of Finicum.
The anti-government protesters, many wearing camouflage and waving US flags, stood across the sidewalk from the local residents, carrying signs that said, “Finicum was murdered in cold blood,” “Blood on government hands” and “All lives matter.” Some carried pictures of Finicum.
B.J. Soper, of the Pacific Patriots Network, who has emerged as the primary organizer of the response to Finicum’s death, said his group had presented a petition, with 200 signatures, to county officials with several demands, including the arrest of law enforcement officials involved in the operation that led to Finicum’s death, the “immediate removal of all militarized FBI personnel and equipment from Harney County” and the resignation of several local officials.
Tuesday, February 2 (Day 32): Ammon Bundy reversed course and withdrew a request to be released from custody as he awaits trial on a felony conspiracy charge, court papers showed. Bundy had initially been scheduled Tuesday to ask a federal judge in Oregon to release him on electronic GPS surveillance, his attorney Mike Arnold said. But now Bundy will resubmit that request at a later time and stay incarcerated “to gather further evidence of his statements and actions encouraging a peaceful protest and civil disobedience,” court documents said.
A federal judge ruled that Joseph O’Shaughnessy may be released with conditions pending his trial. Attorneys for Mr. O’Shaughnessy argued that he opposed the takeover and went to the refuge to try to de-escalate the situation.
Victoria Sharp, in an interview, said she is certain LaVoy Finicum was unjustly gunned down by state police after they and the FBI pursued his vehicle. “I was just a few feet away in the truck,” she insisted. “I know what I saw.” Sharp said she heard three shots and saw Finicum fall. “He wasn’t doing anything aggressive, anything,” she insisted. “He was just walking with his hands up.”
According to Shawna Cox, Sharp (who admitted she was asleep until the vehicle first stopped) was petrified and “we slid down to the floor”.
According to the aerial video released by the FBI, Finicum did not have his hands up when he was shot, and it appears that he was reaching for something at his waist.
The Patriarch Intercedes
In a notarized notice sent Monday by certified mail to Harney County Sheriff David Ward (with CCs to Governor Kate Brown of Oregon and President Obama), family patriarch Cliven Bundy stated:
This is notice that We the People of Harney County and also We the People of the citizens of the United States do give notice that we will retain possession of the Harney County Resource Center (Malhaur (sic) National Wildlife Refuge).
He further demanded:
Remove all federal and state policing agents out of Harney County. Place a Harney County sheriff guard post at the entrance road of the Harney County Resource Center stopping all from entering or exiting, for a time.
On the Bundy Ranch Community Facebook page, there is a note that “Facebook is actively removing our posts and today we were threatened with termination of this page by Facebook.”
Judge (county executive) Steve Grasty said Bundy tweeted the letter to him personally:
Last night I got a tweet with a copy of the letter in it from Mr. Cliven Bundy. I looked at that and wondered what does that mean? Perhaps he thinks he owns the refuge. I don’t think that’s the case. I think he undermined any of the legal actions his son, sons and others are doing to get released.
Harney County Responds to Pacific Patriots Network Demands
One day after members of the Pacific Patriots Network demanded the resignation of the elected officials of Harney County “within 72 hours”, Judge Steve Grasty said neither he nor any other official is going anywhere.
“This isn’t a valid petition in any sense of the law that I understand,” Grasty said. “That request won’t be honored.”
The County Court issued the following statement:
The PPN grieves “Immediate detention by investigating agency of the FBI special agent in charge along with all agents and LEO involved in the shooting death of Lavoy Finicum. A first hand eyewitness account in conjunction with the FBI released video presents reasonable probably cause for arrest while the investigation take place.”
SB 111 was passed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature. It has been codified as Oregon Revised Statues 181A.775 to 181A.815. These statutes require that any use of deadly physical force by a police officer which causes the death of a person be investigated.
The Deschutes County Major Incident Team is investigating the circumstances of the incident. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency on this investigation assisted by detectives from the Bend Police Department, Redmond Police Department and Oregon State Police.
Due to the importance and complexity of such investigations, we anticipate the investigation will continue for several days to weeks. Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan has transferred review of the investigation to Malheur County District Attorney stating that, “In the interest of transparency and to prevent any perceived conflict of interest, it is appropriate to have a district attorney with no prior involvement review the investigation. I have requested Malheur County District Attorney, Dan Norris, review the investigation and make a decision regarding the appropriate use of deadly physical force.”
PPN’s second grievance “Immediate removal of all militarized FBI personnel and equipment from Harney County. All State and County Law Enforcement officers are not included and requested to stay and assist in the process to keep the peace. We are requesting that the remaining occupants at the National Wildlife Refuge be dealt with by local and State law enforcement with the assistance of federal negotiators.”
Neither the Harney County Court nor the Harney County Sheriff has the authority to remove the FBI from activity on federal lands within Harney County, particularly in light of the continuing occupation of a federal facility. The recommendation of use of a federal negotiator is being followed.
PPN’s third grievance is “Immediate resignation of Judge Steve Grasty, Sheriff David Ward, County commissioner Pete Runnels, and County commissioner Dan Nichols.”
All four individuals decline this request.
Wednesday, February 3 (Day 33):
Indictments Handed Down
A federal grand jury has indicted the 11 militants who had already been arrested as well as the four remaining at the Refuge. The indictment remained sealed for 24 hours, and has now been released.
The indictment reads:
Ammon Bundy, Jon Ritzheimer, Joseph O’shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, Peter Santilli, Jason Patrick, Duane Leo Ehmer, Dylan Anderson, Sean Anderson, David Lee Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, Sandra Lynn Pfeifer Anderson, and Kenneth Medenbach, for Conspiracy to Impede Officers of the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 372.
On or about October 5, 2015, and continuing through the date of this indictment, in the District of Oregon, defendants did knowingly and willfully conspire and agree together and with each other and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to prevent by force, intimidation, and threats, officers and employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency within the Department of the Interior, from discharging the duties of their office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 372.
In furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect the illegal objects thereof, one or more of the defendants and one or more of the conspirators performed the following overt acts in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, including but not limited to the following:
- On or about October 5, 2015, two conspirators traveled to Harney County, Oregon, to warn the Harney County sheriff of “extreme civil unrest” if certain demands were not met.
- Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by force while using and carrying firearms.
- Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators brandished and carried firearms on the premises of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and prevented federal officials from performing their official duties by force, threats and intimidation.
- Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators refused to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and allow federal officials to return to their official duties.
- Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators threatened violence against anybody who attempted to remove them from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
- Beginning in or about November 2015, defendants and conspirators recruited and encouraged other individuals, known and unknown to the grand jury, in person and through social media and other means of communication, to participate and assist in the above-described conspiracy.
- In or about November 2015 continuing through January 26, 2016, defendants and conspirators traveled to Harney County, Oregon, to intimidate and coerce the population of Harney County, Oregon, in order to effectuate the goals of the conspiracy.
The defendants will be arraigned on the indictments February 24.
In a criminal complaint, defendants have a right to a preliminary hearing in which they can question the arresting officer under oath about probable cause for the charges. After an indictment, they are no longer entitled to such a proceeding. The preliminary hearings that had been scheduled for Wednesday were cancelled.
An attorney for Shawna Cox – who was allowed to return home to Utah as her case goes through the court system – asked for her client to be allowed to attend Finicum’s funeral on Friday in the same town where Cox lives. US Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart denied the request.
Jailed Occupiers Have Extensive Criminal Histories
Ryan Bundy was convicted of obstructing police in 2008 and again interfered with an arresting officer in 2015, when he had to be restrained by three court bailiffs attempting to take him into custody on a failure-to-appear warrant.
Jason Patrick, 43, of Georgia, faced charges in August 2014 of “making terrorist threats” after he “threatened to kill everyone” inside a Georgia municipal court building, according to prosecutors. Patrick posted bond in that case and was released, but agreed not to possess weapons – a condition that he has since violated. He was photographed with guns during the occupation.
Joseph O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Arizona, has previously been arrested for disorderly conduct, domestic violence and drug offenses.
Brian Cavalier (aka “Fluffy Unicorn”), 44, of Nevada, has a series of felony convictions that restrict his access to firearms but has nonetheless consistently possessed weapons, and often referred to himself as Ammon Bundy’s bodyguard.
Duane Ehmer, the Oregon occupier frequently photographed on his horse Hellboy, is a convicted felon banned from possessing firearms – but he, too, was carrying a pistol when he was arrested. He recently posted a photo on Facebook with the caption: “The only way to win a war is to kill enough of the enemy that they do not want to fight anymore.”
Ryan Payne, 32, of Montana, has repeatedly been involved in armed efforts to oppose the federal government.
Pete Santilli, the conservative radio host who live-streamed the occupation until his arrest, previously bragged on YouTube about refusing to turn in his guns in violation of a restraining order filed against him.
Two of the Last Four Holdouts also have Criminal Histories
Sean Anderson, 47, of Riggins Idaho, where he runs a store for hunting, tactical and survival gear, is facing misdemeanor charges in Wisconsin for resisting an officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of THC. He also has pleaded guilty to a series of misdemeanors in recent years, including domestic abuse in December 2010, disorderly conduct in 2008, criminal trespass in a dwelling in 2002, and disorderly conduct in 1999.
David Fry, 27, of Ohio, the occupation’s webmaster, has several convictions for disorderly conduct as well as possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Lines of Communication Cut
Since 9 AM Tuesday, militants had established regular check-in times to communicate their status to the media, and stated that they had enough food and fuel to continue the occupation for an extended time.
David Fry told the media that the FBI warned them if he or the others inside gave comments to press groups, they would lose access to incoming calls.
That line of communication with the militants was cut Wednesday at 12:50 PM, according to an anonymous source on a blocked phone line.
Thursday, February 4 (Day 34):
Security Beefed up at Other Wildlife Refuges
As the occupation at Malheur drags on, additional officers have been sent to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex that straddles the Oregon-California border, as well as to the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada and Modoc National Wildlife Refuge in northern California.
“No specific threats or incidents have occurred, but we remain vigilant to ensure employee and visitor safety throughout the Region,” Jody Holzworth, a Sacramento-based regional spokeswoman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email.
Congressional Bill Would Require Militants to Pay the Costs of Occupation
US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill that would require the militants – and the federal government – to pay back costs associated with the occupation, which the lawmaker estimates at $100,000 a day and could amount to well over $3 million.
The bill would require the US Department of Justice “to quickly reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies up front for costs associated with responding to the armed takeover”. The US Attorney General would then be allowed sue the militants to recover those costs.
Blumenauer said the federal government should pay some of the costs to Oregon taxpayers, because authorities prolonged the standoff by waiting to arrest or confront the militants. “The feds need to reimburse and then go after the people who caused it.”
Deputies were sent from all over Oregon to Harney County to supplement the four deputies who patrolled the state’s largest county and were overwhelmed by the influx of 1,000 people – militants, media and others – who swarmed the town of 2700.
Patrol assistance was needed to protect federal employees and law enforcement homes which were under threat from militants, as well as to staunch a rumored takeover of the Harney County Sheriff’s office, which would have been easy given the firepower on the side of the occupiers. A vehicle was stopped in Washington with a large cache of firearms heading to Burns.
Ammon Bundy Speaks from Jail – Remains Defiant
In an audio recording made by his attorney from Multnomah County Jail in Portland OR, Ammon Bundy defended taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a way to educate people about injustices by federal officials toward ranchers and others, and demanded that the state police and FBI leave Harney County.
Here is a transcript of Bundy’s statement:
This is Ammon Bundy, I am currently in jail, solitary confinement, and I’ve learned that I have just been indicted.
I ask the question what are people to do?
This is what you get when government officials ignore the people.
We exhausted all prudent measures to get government officials to investigate the abuses to the Hammond family.
Tens of thousands of people understood injustices were taking place by government officials, and their petitions were ignored.
The results of government officials ignoring the people, are acts like the takeover of the Malheur Refuge.
Taking over the refuge was not only right, it was the duty of the people to do.
When government officials are acting in contrary to the people, they must not get away with it.
The takeover of the Malheur Refuge was a needed action to show government officials that the people will not be complacent when they prosecute and bully good families like the Hammonds.
Government officials chose to end our educational efforts with attacks of force, and it appears they intend to do it again.
Go home Oregon State Police, you have already killed enough. Go home FBI, it is time to end this.
Friday, February 5 (Day 35): The funeral of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is scheduled for 2:30 PM in Kanab UT, near his home of Cane Beds AZ, and is expected to draw as many as 1,000 people from several Western states.
His obituary notes that he was a missionary for the LDS church and served in the Bishopry. Finicum was an urban property manager in Portland OR and also rehabbed large 50-100 unit buildings to rent before he returned to Arizona to become a rancher.
Between his three wives, Finicum, who was one of seven children, had 11 children (a mix of adopted, half- and full siblings), 19 grandchildren (with 3 more on the way), and more than 50 foster teenage boys over the last 19 years, who provided him with both free labor and an income of more than $100,000 per year to subsidize his failing ranch.
In 2014, he joined the protest against federal land management at the Cliven Bundy ranch Bunkerville NV, and decided to also stop paying his own federal grazing fees.
When Finicum died in Oregon on Jan. 26, he was a day shy of his 55th birthday.
Kane County UT Sheriff Tracy Glover is bringing in extra law enforcement to help keep the peace, but asked the FBI to stay away.
The Bureau of Land Management has closed its Kanab field office Thursday and Friday, out of “an abundance of caution”, and the Kane County School District is closed at noon Friday.
Rallies in Support of Finicum
At least 22 rallies and vigils are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6. Of the approximately 12,000 people invited to rallies in states including Florida, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, 700 indicated they would attend. Many of the meetings are scheduled to be at courthouses or State Capitol buildings.
One of the largest rallies is scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Washington Capitol in Olympia. As of Feb. 4, 200 people had indicated they would attend.
There are at least seven rallies and vigils scheduled for Sunday in Nevada, Arizona, Indiana, Texas and Virginia.
“We will stand to show that We, AMERICANS, will never allow one more innocent person to die at the hands of the Government,” reads the event description on Facebook.
“Finicum was very educated and a very smart man,” said Arden Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s youngest son. “He knew a lot, and so to people like the federal government, that’s a big threat. Smart people scare them … He died for what he believed in.”
Bailey Logue, 24-year-old daughter of Bundy, said she hoped to see more ranchers fight back in the wake of Finicum’s death. “If we had every rancher in Harney County and every rancher here in the west rip up that contract, [the federal government] would have no choice, but to get out. That would be an amazing honor for LaVoy.”
Cliven Bundy said: “I would like to see people pay attention to what LaVoy was trying to teach … I have no doubt that these contracts and this overreach of the federal government and the unconstitutional jurisdiction over these states is what killed LaVoy.”
Shawna Cox Files Emergency Motion to Attend Funeral
Cox’s lawyers filed a last-minute motion to ask the federal judge to reconsider her order that Cox stay away from the “like-minded” people who will be attending Finicum’s funeral.
Cox is a long-time resident of Kanab UT, the same town where the funeral will be held.
A Not Unrelated Bit of Historical Trivia
On January 10, 2006, the mayor and city council of Kanab UT, where LaVoy Finicum is having his funeral, passed Resolution 1-1-06R, titled “The Natural Family: A Vision for the City of Kanab”, drafted by the Sutherland Institute of Salt Lake City, but adopted by only one local government in Utah out of the 232 contacted by the conservative institute. It reads, in part:
We envision a local culture that upholds the marriage of a man to a woman, and a woman to a man, as ordained of God… We see our homes as open to a full quiver of children (emphasis added), the source of family continuity and social growth. We envision young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers; and we see young men growing into husbands, home-builders, and fathers.
The Malheur occupation leaders who have followed God’s entreaties to have a “full quiver of children”, include:
- Patriarch Cliven Bundy, with 14 children and 52 grandchildren
- Shawna Cox, author of Last Rancher Standing about Cliven Bundy, and Bundy’s “personal secretary”, with 13 children and 42 grandchildren
- Ammon Bundy, with six children, from 1 to 13 years old
- Ryan Bundy, the father of eight (Ryan pulled his children out of school in Clark County, Nevada after school officials wouldn’t allow his 15-year-old daughter to carry a pocketknife, calling the knife ban a violation of his children’s rights).
- Robert “LaVoy” Finicum (one of seven children), with 11 children, 19 grandchildren, and more than 50 foster teen boys over the last 19 years
Shawna Cox Allowed to Attend Finicum Funeral
US District Court Judge Anna J. Brown heard an emergency motion and reversed a magistrate judge’s decision earlier in the week that barred Cox from going to LaVoy Finicum’s funeral.
Brown said Cox, 59, could attend the funeral on the condition that she was “not to engage in any public commentary” surrounding the case or Finicum’s death as she went to and from the service at the Kanab Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. The judge ordered her not to participate in any social event or any demonstration regarding the events that led to the federal case against her.
“Patriots” Gather at Finicum Viewing
At a viewing Friday prior to Finicum’s funeral, pickup trucks flying American flags filled the church parking lot in Kanab, Utah, with one truck flying a picture of Finicum and the words, “Murdered by the FBI”.
“Hellboy” Ehmer Released – Santilli Held
Duane Ehmer has been released from jail, but must limit his travel and wear an electronic ankle bracelet to ensure he appears at future court dates. He’s one of only three who were granted release ahead of trial. US Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart determined Thursday that Ehmer wasn’t a flight risk and appeared to have joined rather than incited the standoff.
US District Judge Michael Mosman upheld a decision to keep occupier Pete Santilli behind bars pending trial, saying Santilli had made threatening statements about federal agents on his online radio program that can’t be completely dismissed as shock-jock bravado.
Volunteers Sign Up to Restore Malheur Refuge Damage
At the end of January, the Oregon Natural Desert Association put out a call for volunteers interested in doing environmental restoration at the refuge after the occupation is over. In just a week, more than 600 people from all over the Northwest have signed up.
“We very much want to support refuge managers in whatever efforts it will take to restore the natural resources or infrastructure at the refuge,” said ONDA Conservation Director Dan Morse.
Other groups are also starting to mobilize volunteers around the occupation.
“There’s a lot of people saying, ‘OK, what’s next?’” said Arran Robertson of Oregon Wild. “People want to do something positive. They want to express their love for Malheur.”
Robertson said Oregon Wild has seen a higher level of interest from the public recently, including people who have never interacted with the conservation group previously. Not only has the Malheur occupation energized potential volunteers, Robertson said it has also brought conservation groups together in a way that no previous issues have.
Cliven Bundy Rides in Finicum Funeral Procession
At Robert LaVoy Finicum’s funeral, eldest daughters Thara Tenney and Belle Collier said their father had been marked as an extremist in the tradition of great reformers like Joan of Arc and Thomas Jefferson. Nearby, men displaying the insignias of the Three Percenter and Oath Keeper militias filled the daughters’ pauses with a gravelly “Hear, hear.”
His family “felt like he was completely misportrayed and mischaracterized,” Kanosh attorney Todd Macfarlane said.
Brand Thornton, of Dillon, MT, one of the Malheur occupiers, blew into a shofar (ram’s horn) to sound a note they said would call upon God to protect them in a coming battle (just as the biblical Joshua blew the horn to bring down the walls of Jericho on God’s command).
Men with visible firearms manned the entries to the church’s parking lot Friday to vet incoming vehicles, though it is against LDS Church policy to carry firearms on church property.
Victoria Sharp, the 18-year-old who sat in the backseat of Finicum’s truck at the time of his shooting, was scheduled to sing in a benefit concert after the funeral.
Cliven Bundy, on horseback, said Finicum was “basically crucified”.
Finicum’s first involvement in the land-rights movement came when he was one of the first to arrive at a 2014 standoff between the federal government and Cliven Bundy, who long refused to pay grazing fees.
Bundy said that at the time Finicum was “with lots of cowboys, and he was just one of them”. But Finicum “paid attention to what we were fighting for,” Bundy said, “and he went home and canceled his grazing permit.”
Finicum’s daughter, Arianna Brown, said that was a tough decision for her father. He didn’t feel oppressed. He felt the Bureau of Land Management had been fair to him. “But he said, should they have the power to do good, they have the power to do bad, and he had to stand by the Constitution.”
Thara Tenney, Finicum’s daughter, said in an interview Friday that people arriving in Kanab were responding to the truth she said her father embodied. She said before her father left home, he reminded his children that some things, including freedom, are more valuable than one man’s life.
Law Enforcement On Alert for “Domestic Extremists”
Utah authorities were on alert as preparations for the funeral unfolded. The state’s Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin to law enforcement, warning that while the Finicum family planned a “quiet” service, activists might use the event to “further their ideological beliefs”.
“With the amount of support on social media which some domestic extremists involved in the funeral have received,” the bulletin said, “law enforcement should remain cognizant of the likelihood of the presence of domestic extremists” in the area.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
The 73-year-old father of Jeffery Banta, one of the remaining four holdouts in the Refuge says his son may have learned his distrust of the US government from him.
I support them 100%,” Willard Banta said from the couple’s home in rural Yerington, Nevada. “I think the BLM is a bunch of cold-blooded murderers.”
“I love my country, but I don’t love our politicians. The government’s hands are in too damn many areas of our private life,” he said. “I actually think there is going to be a civil war between the people. They tell us this is a country of freedom, but they try to take all our civil rights away. They’re trying to take our guns away.”
Saturday, February 6 (Day 36):
More News of the Funeral
Roughly 1,000 people packed into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building Friday for the funeral service, spilling over into the classrooms and hallways.
The funeral was held inside a Mormon church, but national leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had earlier denounced the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and said they were “deeply troubled” by reports the occupiers were using scriptural principles to justify it.
Several men who did not appear to be with any law enforcement agency walked around the church with handguns, highlighting a somewhat tense event where almost as many attendees were filming reporters as there were reporters recording the event.
Kane County Sheriff Tracy Glover said he asked the FBI and BLM officials to stay away from town to “de-escalate the emotion of the day”.
LaVoy Finicum’s Stand for Freedom
The day’s events in the Utah town just north of the Arizona border were billed as “LaVoy Finicum’s Stand for Freedom”.
After the funeral, people lined the streets as dozens of riders on horseback paraded past, following a riderless horse (as is the practice with a fallen president).
At a news conference, Finicum’s daughter Thara Tenney announced the family would seek an independent investigation of the incident that resulted in her father’s death. The family has paid for an independent autopsy and planned to announce the results after the funeral.
“My dad was murdered defending the liberties so that we may be free of bondage,” said Brittney Beck, a daughter of Finicum. Another daughter, Thara Thenney, said her father was “defiled, mocked and eventually slain”.
Lory Storm, a supporter who traveled from Oregon to Kanab for the funeral, scoffed at the idea the dispute was over. “I see America being wrestled away from the federal government and back to the Constitution,” Storm said, calling it a “knock-down, drag-out fight”. “Just watch what’s going to happen over the next three to six weeks,” Storm said. “Right now we’re just burying a friend.”
Unindicted Co-Conspirators Attend Memorial For Lavoy Finicum
Cliven Bundy made an appearance at the Kanab UT funeral service, sitting astride a horse as two of Finicum’s daughters addressed the news media after the memorial, calling for an independent investigation into their father’s death. A yellow Gadsden flag, bearing the words “Don’t tread on me”, waved in front of him. He encouraged other ranchers to breach their grazing contracts with the federal government, saying that’s what Finicum would have wanted.
Brand Thornton, who brought his ram’s horn to Bunkerville NV in 2014, and to the Malheur occupation, blew the spiral-shaped shofar outside the Mormon stake center where the funeral service was held.
Blaine Cooper, a Refuge occupier from Arizona and who appeared in the video “call out” to members of the “patriot” movement to come to eastern Oregon, was also at the funeral. He says he was not arrested or indicted, perhaps because he was not armed (he has a felony conviction would be not allow it), and said “I did mainly media updates for Ammon”. Cooper said that, after Finicum’s death, the remaining occupiers took a vote in the chow hall on what to do next, and the decision was not unanimous but many occupiers chose to leave in a large armed convoy. Two checkpoints were already set up near the refuge, Cooper said, but the convoy was able to avoid them and continue into Nevada. Cooper has not returned to his home, and his wife and children, who joined him in Oregon but did not stay at the refuge, are staying with family.
Meanwhile, Back at the Refuge
At one of the roadblocks, a new lighted sign changes from “Road Closed” to “No Unlawful Entry” to “Subject To Arrest”.
It’s the latest indication that the coalition of law enforcement guarding the Malheur Refuge have no interest in additional militia members, media or curious members of the public getting within five miles of the headquarters.
Reporters looking from a nearby hill could observe what looked like multiple roadblocks along the road to the refuge headquarters. There was no obvious sign of the four people believed to be camping within the refuge. The only movement to or from the headquarters appeared to be law enforcement vehicles.
Pacific Patriots Network Backs Down from Escorting Last Four Out of Refuge
BJ Soper, of the Pacific Patriots Network, said the group was going to escort the holdouts from the refuge on Saturday, But he learned that the occupiers said they were resigned to die and that attempts to remove them would be met by force. Soper said he didn’t want to put the volunteers in harm’s way.
Instead, he asked volunteers who were already on their way to attend a memorial Saturday for 0LaVoy Finicum.
Rally for Finicum and “Freedom” at Idaho Statehouse
Hundreds came to a vigil for LaVoy Finicum at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise Saturday afternoon.
“LaVoy was a very good friend of ours, a very good friend of mine as well,” said Brandon Curtiss, the president of the ‘III% of Idaho’. “He was a good man and a good patriot.”
“I never thought I’d see a day where an American was gunned down for executing his First Amendment right,” said Andrew Chavez, the organizer of the vigil. “It’s about personal freedoms, personal liberties, and without those, we really have nothing,” said Lance Williams, a Twin Falls resident. Some attendees held signs that said “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”
A Big Sign of Appreciation for Law Enforcement
A group of local people decided that a billboard would be a good way to voice their support for law enforcement.
When one of them called Meadow Outdoor, the company offered to put up two billboards for free for the duration of the occupation.
One of the billboards reads “Our heroes making Harney County proud” next to a picture of officers in front of the Harney County Sheriff’s Office. The other billboard reads “We are Harney County We have our own voice.”
Possible Ambulance Chasing Violations on the Part of Ammon Bundy’s Attorneys
Two Oregon attorneys came to the refuge and inventoried which federal laws were being broken, while militant leaders ordered new recruits to engage in illegal activity.
While Ammon Bundy was teaching others about his interpretation of the Constitution, lawyers were schooling him about potential violations of federal laws.
On Jan. 9, Lissa Casey of the Arnold Law Firm tweeted that she and Brian Boender, a fellow attorney from the Eugene Based Arnold Law Firm, met with some “very nice men” at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. On Jan. 14, Ammon Bundy confirmed he met with lawyers over the previous weekend.
After he was indicted, Bundy retained the Arnold Law Firm. That retention could potentially be a violation of Oregon State Bar guidelines.
Lissa Casey and Mike Arnold, the head of the Arnold Law Firm, confirmed that Ammon Bundy did not contact the firm, but rather attorneys for the firm went to meet the militants face-to-face.
Oregon bar rules, specifically, section 7.3. Portland criminal attorney Janet Hoffman said that the rule prohibits attorneys from soliciting clients by phone, electronic contact or in person, and specifically prohibits solicitation if for financial gain.
“We expect the litigation to be rather lengthy and expensive so he asked us to set him up with the crowd sourcing page to assist in raising funds,” Casey wrote. As of Friday, Feb. 5, that page had raised about $27,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Bundy Brothers Steered Clear of Federal Violations by Ordering Others to Engage
Before he was arrested, Ryan Bundy said attorneys gave him and other occupation leaders lists of laws to steer clear of breaking. Ammon Bundy also said that attorneys had inventoried potential legal violations, and had given the militant leaders a list of laws they believed were being broken.
A reporter saw Ryan Payne, who headed the security team at the refuge before he was arrested, giving orders to young militants, some of whom had arrived just hours before and were new to the group.
A reporter also witnessed Ammon Bundy telling television journalists that he would not drive federally owned vehicles, use federal computers, or engage in other illegal activities that other, rank-and-file, militants had done.
Ryan Bundy was asked about his brother’s comments, and acknowledged militant leaders would not engage in those visible crimes, because younger militants and newer recruits were less likely to be prosecuted. “The government’s going to leave those guys alone,” Ryan Bundy said.
Sunday, February 7 (Day 37): Supporters of LaVoy Finicum gathered for a candlelight vigil Saturday in John Day OR, the town he was heading to for a community meeting when he was shot at a police roadblock.
Also on Saturday, the cross planted in the snow where Finicum was killed was torn down, and B.J. Soper and others returned to rebuild the roadside memorial and offer $500 for information leading to those responsible for tearing it down. “We’re going to go buy every damn flag in this town and hang this back up,” he said.
The front page of the local newspaper, Burns Times-Herald, read: “Go home militia!”
IT Man Back On-Line
A newly cleaned up David Fry found a work-around to the FBI blockage of his social media access and posted several videos to his YouTube “Defend Your Base” channel, saying “The feds, if you’re watching this, piss off. Do your job. Get the hell out of Oregon, get the hell out of all of the states.”
In a video titled “When will we rise against the enemy?”, Fry labeled those unknown people who took down the Finicum roadside memorial as “scumbags”, and noted that he wasn’t sure how much longer the group would be inside the refuge. “Supplies aren’t unlimited,” he said while calling on more people to join the movement, as a generator hummed in the background.
Fry said the FBI told him he faces additional charges because of defensive barricades the four have built, and complains “I’m tired of you guys telling us what we can and can’t do”, before saying he’s going for a joyride in a government vehicle.
In another video, Sean and Sandy Anderson are sitting together and the husband says they feel like hostages because they can’t leave without being arrested.
Monday, February 8 (Day 38): Ammon Bundy had a recorded statement released by his attorney, in which he called on elected officials from mostly Western states to voice support for free speech and civil disobedience and to visit their constituents in federal custody.
“It is your duty to hold federal agencies at bay, protecting the people in your state,” said Ammon Bundy, who also urged elected representatives in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Washington state and Ohio to support the right to assemble.
Two Ethics Complaints Filed with Oregon State Bar
Two complaints filed Monday with the Oregon State Bar against the Arnold Law Firm, contending the lawyers violated ethics rules by soliciting a client (Ammon Bundy) for financial gain – a polite way of saying “ambulance-chasing”.
The complaints – one filed anonymously and the other by a Eugene OR woman – cite a report Friday by Oregon Public Broadcasting, which first raised the ethical questions (see Saturday, February 6, above).
Cliven Bundy May Join Nevada State Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore in Burns & Portland
Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said that she, along with other state lawmakers from western states, will be traveling to meet Cliven Bundy in Burns and in Portland.
Fiore said the details of the trip are still being planned, but she expects to be in Portland on Thursday night to protest the jailing of Ammon and Ryan Bundy.
“There is a Nevadan sitting in jail, and as an office holder, I will be there to demand his release,” Fiore said. “If that Nevadan can’t leave Oregon, we will bring Nevada to him. Peaceful, of course.”
Cliven Bundy later said that he hasn’t yet “made up his mind”. “I’ve been invited to go with . I haven’t committed myself at all,” he said by phone Monday night.
Cliven Bundy may not receive the warmest of welcomes in Burns. A local group called the Harney County Committee of Safety was formed initially under the guidance of Ammon Bundy with the intent of “safeguarding individual rights”. The committee supported some of the aims of the refuge occupiers, like turning over federal land to local control, but did not condone the occupation.
Michele Fiore (born 1970) has been a Republican member of the Nevada Assembly since 2013, and confirmed she would enter the 2016 race for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district in southern Clark County. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and has lived in Nevada since 1993.
As a staunch supporter of Second Amendment “rights”, Fiore’s 2015 Christmas Card shows her family holding their guns. She sponsored Assembly Bill 148 to allow concealed firearms on the campuses of colleges, grade schools and day care facilities. In a 2015 interview, Fiore is quoted saying, “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”
Fiore describes herself as a “conservative, Catholic, gun-toting, second amendment, strong-ass woman” and brags that “as someone that carries a firearm on me like my panties and bra, I do break the law because I generally carry my gun in places where they say is a gun-free zone, because I’m not going to be a victim of a stupid law”.
Tuesday, February 9 (Day 39): The ACLU of Oregon has defended the First Amendment rights of indicted Bundy supporter Pete Santilli, asserting that he is an independent journalist who was merely reporting from and about the Malheur occupation.
According to a court affidavit, Santilli has identified himself as a member of the Oathkeepers and the III% group. On his internet shock-jock show, he made several calls to action, asking people to come join the occupation.
Wednesday, February 10 (Day 40): Commissioners from Grant County OR held a public hearing on a resolution that calls for an end to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Several Oregon counties have already passed resolutions to show solidarity with Harney County in opposing the illegal occupation. But Grant County’s position is particularly important because some of the militants who support the occupiers said Grant County could be next.
That’s largely because Sheriff Glenn Palmer met with some of the occupiers in January and supports their anti-government positions. Palmer is a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which encourages members to refuse to enforce laws that they believe are unconstitutional.
In response to complaints, the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association is conducting an investigation into Sheriff Palmer’s conduct.
NEWS RELEASE FROM FBI-OREGON :
At approximately 4:30 pm (Pacific) on Wednesday, February 10, 2016, one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. FBI Agents attempted to approach the driver, and he returned to the encampment at the refuge at a high rate of speed.
At this time, the FBI has moved to contain the remaining occupiers by placing agents at barricades both immediately ahead of and behind the area where the occupiers are camping. Negotiations between the occupiers and the FBI continue. No shots have been fired.
“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully. However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
Thursday, February 11 (Day 41):
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who were indicted on federal conspiracy charges, was arrested by FBI agents in Portland OR late Wednesday as he stepped off a flight from Las Vegas.
The Bundy Ranch Facebook page reported Cliven Bundy was surrounded by SWAT officers and detained after his arrival from Nevada at 10:10 PM Wednesday.
Bundy’s arrest was confirmed on the website of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, which said he had been booked in to the Multnomah County Detention Center.
Bundy faces five charges, including conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer, related to the 2014 standoff between federal agents and militia members on his Nevada ranch.
During a live stream conference call between protesters, posted to YouTube, between the militants and conservative Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore – the last four occupiers said they were prepared to leave Thursday morning.
Fiore told those on the call that Mike Arnold – Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, who Fiore says was in the car with her – spoke with the FBI, and the agency promised it would allow her to be at the FBI checkpoint on Thursday morning when the occupiers turn themselves in.
Their decision came after FBI tactical teams infiltrated refuge buildings undetected overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday. The FBI then hemmed in the occupiers with armored vehicles and negotiated with them for five hours to reach the surrender agreement.
News Release from FBI – Oregon
February 11th, 2016 11:21 AM
At approximately 9:40 am on Thursday, February 11, 2016, the FBI brought three of the remaining Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers into custody without incident. At approximately 11:00 am, agents brought the fourth into custody without incident.
- Sean Larry Anderson, age 47, of Riggins, Idaho
- Sandra Lynn Anderson, age 48, of Riggins, Idaho
- Jeff Wayne Banta, age 46, of Yerington, Nevada
- David Lee Fry, age 27, of Blanchester, Ohio
No one was injured, and no shots were fired. Thursday marks day 41 of the occupation of the refuge.
Agents arrested the remaining four occupiers as they walked out of the refuge to the FBI checkpoint. Those arrested will face arraignment before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Portland on Friday, February 12, 2016.
“The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe. It is a time for healing, reconciliation amongst neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal. I want to thank our neighbors in eastern Oregon for their patience, resolve, and their kind and welcoming spirit to the many members of federal, county, state, local, and tribal law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to bring this illegal occupation to a conclusion. The fine work of so many dedicated public servants in a difficult endeavor cannot be understated. I am very proud of them all,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney, District of Oregon.
“Much work is left to assess the crime scene and damage to the refuge and tribal artifacts. We are committed to seeing the job done and to pursue justice for the crimes committed during the illegal occupation.”
Occupation Ends Like Reality TV
The final four holdouts spent about five hours Wednesday evening on a phone call, carried live on YouTube to more than 60,000 listeners, and engaged in emotional and sometimes hysterical negotiations involving evangelist Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) and controvesial conservative Nevada state assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who has been supporting the demands of the occupation.
“If we go to jail, that’s admitting that we did not follow the Constitution. And we did follow the Constitution,” Sandy Anderson told Fiore on the phone call. “… That’s why we’re here. We were standing up for the Constitution. Expressing our our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. And they are crucifying us for that.”
The phone call was orchestrated by Gavin Seim, a failed Washington state congressional candidate and self-proclaimed “liberty speaker”.
Jeff Banta, and Sean & Sandy Anderson walked out and surrendered at 9:40 AM Thursday. David Fry was the last to leave and surrender, but only after a recorded telephone negotiation with Michelle Fiore and Franklin Graham, and his shouted insistence that “I will die a free man”.
“A dead man can’t talk and a dead man can’t write,” Fiore said. “We have to stay together and stay alive.”
After repeatedly threatening to shoot himself, complaining that he couldn’t get marijuana, and ranting about UFOs, drone strikes in Pakistan, leaking nuclear plants and the government “chemically mutating people”, as well as the government not conceding to any of his “grievances”, David Fry said “I’m gonna grab one more cookie, one more cigarette. Alrighty then.” He shouted “Hallelujah” and walked out of his barricaded encampment into FBI custody.
Patriarch Cliven Bundy Charged for 2014 Standoff
The complaint against Cliven Bundy states that officers responding to his ranch in 2014 faced a threat from armed people on bridges who “took sniper positions behind concrete barriers, their assault rifles aimed directly at the officers below”.
Bundy was charged Thursday with assaulting a federal officer, using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, interfering with commerce by extortion and obstructing the administration of justice.
Law enforcement officials also said that additional charges might be filed against those arrested who were at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in 2014.
News Release from FBI – Oregon
Statement By FBI Special Agent In Charge Greg Bretzing On The Situation At The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
February 11th, 2016 2:02 PM
This morning the FBI took into custody the four remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge without incident and without shots fired. Rev. Franklin Graham and Michele Fiore were at the checkpoint to meet the occupiers as they left their encampment.
As we have said since day one, our goal has been to end this illegal occupation peacefully, and we are grateful that we were able to do so today. I want to make it very clear that we will continue to enforce the law with respect to the refuge and other federal properties. Anyone who chooses to travel to Oregon with the intent of engaging in illegal activity will be arrested. Saying that, I want to reassure those Harney County residents who simply visited the refuge or provided food to the occupiers – we are not looking into those events. We are concerned about those who have criminal, violent intent.
While the occupation is over, there is still quite a bit of work that needs to happen before the refuge can re-open to the public. I want to run through some of that with you now.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge remains closed, and it will remain closed for some number of weeks. During this time, law enforcement will continue to man checkpoints at the edge of the refuge to maintain the security of this crime scene.
Most immediately, FBI agents are inspecting and securing the buildings and any other areas of concern on the refuge to ensure that no one else is hiding. This process will take some number of hours.
Following that tactical clearing of the refuge, a team of FBI Special Agent Bomb Technicians, detectives with the Oregon State Police Arson/Explosives Unit, and bomb technicians from the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon Air National Guard will methodically work their way through the property to locate and mitigate any explosive-related hazards. This process could take several days.
Once the refuge is cleared of any hazards, the FBI’s Evidence Response Teams (ERT) will enter to document and collect evidence related to potential crimes committed during the occupation. In addition, FBI forensic examiners from the Northwest Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory will work to recover and process computers and electronic devices. It will likely be several weeks before the evidence teams complete their work on the refuge, and it will likely be a number of months before the forensic examiners complete their analysis.
At the same time, the FBI is deploying experts with its Art Crime Team to work on the refuge. These agents are specially-trained in cultural property investigations. They will be responsible for working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Burns Paiute Tribe to identify and document damage to the tribe’s artifacts and sacred burial grounds.
They will start with an archeological field assessment to determine any potential violations of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Protection Act (NAGPRA) and the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). This work will likely take a number of weeks to complete.
As the FBI works through each of these investigative processes, we will consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as to how and when we will be able to return control of the refuge to that agency.
Over the course of the last month, the people of Harney County have lived through an experience that is both highly emotional and physically exhausting. We have seen the occupiers and their outside supporters try to drive deep divisions between those who live and work here. We have seen some residents leave their homes, fearing violence against their families. We have seen the confusion, concern and trouble that the occupiers’ actions have caused for this community.
This series of events has been beyond difficult for Harney County families. But, in the time I have been here, I have also seen the deep love that you have for this place you call home… love for the people, the land, and the way of life that makes Harney County so special. This passion for everything good about Harney County is what will help heal the community after this incident.
This is your community, and the FBI, along with our other law enforcement partners from across the state, are honored that we could be of service to you. We still have work we need to do – and we continue to ask for your patience as we complete these necessary last tasks. We will do everything we can to return the refuge to its normal operations as soon as possible.
In particular, we know that the people of the Burns Paiute Tribe have specific concerns about the potential desecration of their ancestral lands and artifacts dating back thousands of years. As we complete the necessary safety checks and process the crime scene, we will work with the tribal members to ensure that our work remains sensitive to their historical and cultural concerns.
In closing, I want to thank Sheriff Ward for all of his hard work. I have never met a man who cares more about the people he serves… who cares more for the community in which he lives. No matter how you feel about the Hammonds or the situation at the refuge or the role that we have played here, Sheriff Ward has done exactly what he has promised to do since this all started back in November. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that the people he serves are safe, that they are heard, and that they can find a path back to normalcy.
More Charged/Arrested for Conspiracy
Federal prosecutors say nine additional people from six states have been charged in connection with the armed occupation of Malheur Refuge.
The US Attorney’s Office in Oregon says seven of them were arrested Thursday and two remain at large.
That means a total of 25 people have been charged with the standoff. They all face the same felony count of conspiracy to interfere with federal workers.
The newly charged include: Blaine Cooper of Arizona, Wesley Kjar of Utah, Corey Lequieu of Nevada, Neil Wampler of California, Jason Blomgren of North Carolina, and Darryl Thorn and Eric Flores, both of Washington state.
The names of the two being sought haven’t been released.
Cliven Bundy In Jail With His Two Sons – Wants Public Defender
Cliven Bundy will be behind bars in the same jail housing his sons, Ammon and Ryan, and will remain incarcerated until his second court appearance on February 16.
At his first court appearance, Bundy asked for a court-appointed attorney. US Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart said she wanted to see financial documents first.
[Cliven Bundy sold or transferred 385 cattle in 2014, worth as much as half a million dollars.]
Friday, February 12: FBI officials said they haven’t found any rigged explosives or booby traps at the Malheur Refuge.
News Release from FBI – Oregon
February 12th, 2016 5:12 PM
Today, the FBI began to process the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a crime scene.
This morning, a team of FBI Special Agent Bomb Technicians, detectives with the Oregon State Police Arson/Explosives Unit, and bomb technicians from the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon Air National Guard conducted an initial sweep of the property. A full sweep is ongoing and will continue until the entire area is deemed safe for law enforcement to operate.
Currently, the FBI’s Evidence Response Teams (ERT) has entered areas of the refuge and has begun to document and collect evidence related to potential crimes committed during the occupation.
The FBI’s Art Crime Team has deployed to work on the refuge. These agents are specially-trained in cultural property investigations, and they will be responsible for working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Burns Paiute Tribe to identify and document damage to the tribe’s artifacts and sacred burial grounds.
All of this work will likely take a number of weeks to complete. As the FBI works through each of these investigative processes, we will consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as to how and when we will be able to return control of the refuge to that agency.
The Harney County Joint Information Center (JIC) will continue to be staffed through Sunday, February 14, 2016.
Local Resident Writes to Cliven Bundy
Cathy Jory, a resident of Hines OR, just south of Burns, wrote a letter to Cliven Bundy, who had spoken in support of the occupation before he was arrested in Portland:
I am a resident of Harney County. I have never given you or anyone else permission to speak, write or act for me…. You don’t represent me. We are all suffering the consequences of the irresponsible actions and words of outside agitators who think they have the right to speak for us.
Saturday, February 13: The federal complaint against Cliven Bundy charges him with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, assault on a federal law enforcement officer, two counts of carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, obstruction of justice and interference with commerce by extortion.
If convicted, Bundy, 69, could face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, up to 10 years on the obstruction charge, up to 20 years in prison on the assault and interference charges and a mandatory minimum consecutive seven years on the firearm charge. He could also face fines of $250,000 per count.
The complaint also mentions four alleged co-conspirators in the 2014 standoff who aren’t named but based on the allegations, they appear to be Bundy’s sons, Ammon and Ryan, as well as self-styled Montana militiaman Ryan Payne and Pete Santilli, the online talk show host from Ohio.
The federal complaint accuses Bundy of unlawfully directing them and “more than 200 followers” to stop federal agents and contract cowboys who were trying to enforce a court order to round up about 400 Bundy cattle, and provides details about what happened in 2014 and why federal rangers backed off:
“Some of these gunmen took tactically superior positions on high ground, while others moved in and out of the crowd, masking their movements behind other unarmed Followers,” Joe Willis, an FBI agent out of the agency’s Las Vegas office, wrote in the complaint. “The most immediate threat to the officers came from the bridges where gunmen took sniper positions behind concrete barriers, their assault rifles aimed directly at the officers below.”
Bundy’s supporters had a tactical advantage, he wrote, and they also outnumbered officers four to one.
“Officers withdrew rather than risk the firefight that was sure to follow if they engaged the snipers,” Willis said.
Sunday, February 14:
Monday, February 15:
Oregon legislators are rushing through a bill aimed at temporarily protecting the identity of the Oregon State Police officer who shot and killed Robert LaVoy Finicum after hearing that the officer faces potential death threats. House Judiciary Chairman Jeff Barker, and a former Portland Police officer, said that “there was a real, credible threat and they needed something right away” to protect the name of the state police officer.
House Bill 4087 would allow the police to ask a judge to bar release of the shooter’s name for 90 days at a time, which can be renewed by a judge for “continuing credible threat of present danger” to an officer or his or her family.
State Police Superintendent Richard Evans Jr. described how police and other government officials in Burns faced a series of threats and intimidating behavior before and during the occupation.
Barker worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon to craft a bill that would not draw the group’s opposition over concerns that it could be used to prevent public scrutiny of police shootings. Barker said he expected the officer’s name to eventually become public, after “people have calmed down”. The ACLU stipulated that it would remain neutral on this bill.
Tuesday, February 16:
Cliven Bundy Denied Release
Cliven Bundy was determined to be a danger to the community and a flight risk, and ordered held in jail. US Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart in Portland agreed with the government’s position. “It’s clear Mr. Bundy does not comply with federal court orders,” she said.
Assistant US Attorney Steven W. Myhre noted that Bundy has refused to obey four federal court orders requiring him to pay grazing fees or fines to the Bureau of Land Management, and that he drew more than 200 supporters to his ranch in 2014 from more than 10 states, and that more than 60 guns were raised and pointed at federal officers to prevent them from rounding up Bundy’s cattle.
The federal officers “thought they were going to die that day,” Myhre said.
“He does not recognize federal courts – claiming they are illegitimate – does not recognize federal law, refuses to obey federal court orders, has already used force and violence against federal law enforcement officers while they were enforcing federal court orders, nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others,” Myhre’s detention memo said. “He has pledged to do so again in the future to keep federal law enforcement officers from enforcing the law against him.”
The government memo identifies Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Arden Bundy and Ryan Payne as acting to intimidate federal officials who drove near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada in 2014 and in 2015. It also says Ryan and Dave Bundy spoke out publicly in March 2014 warning the BLM to stay away from the region.
The memo quotes Bundy bodyguard Brian Cavalier saying at a public meeting in Mesquite last March 6, “If the BLM wants to go to the field to play ball, then me and my crew will come play ball too.”
Crime Scene Investigation
Investigators so far have found firearms, explosives, spoiled food and a trench of human feces at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, federal prosecutors said.
The FBI is expected to take 21 days to complete processing “crime scenes” at the federal property in Harney County, which includes 24 structures and an outdoor camping area, the prosecutors wrote in court records.
The FBI Evidence Response Team initially found “significant amounts” of human feces in and around the outdoor camping area and “large food stores that are spoiling” in living quarters on the Refuge, as well as an “improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts”.
Wednesday, February 17:
Shawna Cox, who acted as quartermaster for the occupiers at the refuge, helping coordinate the supplies and food, and who sat in the back seat of Lavoy Fincum’s truck when he tried to evade the police roadblock, has filed her own criminal complaint, saying she was a victim of public corruption and government oppression.
The eight-page “counter criminal complaint” filed in US District Court in Portland contends that state and federal employees attempted to kill her and “executed” her “co-witness and co-informant” Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
In her complaint, Cox says she’ll ask jurors who hear her case to bring criminal and civil charges instead against all of the Oregon State Bar members and public employees involved in the “persecution, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective council (sic)” that resulted in the extended prison time for Burns-area ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steve Hammond.
She also is seeking charges against those who prevented occupiers from resolving the situation through a “grand jury or inquest jury” in Harney County, and those involved in the “ambush” of the leaders of the takeover.
She pledges to subpoena a wide range of local, state and federal officials for depositions – from Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and Gov. Kate Brown to US District Judge Ann Aiken and Oregon State Audubon Society members.
Excerpts From her CounterComplaint:
I am a victim, witness and informant to extremely serious public corruption and government oppression. I came to the assistance of economically vulnerable individuals who were being harassed, threatened, intimidated, persecuted and incarcerated by arrogant, narcissi (sic) Federal Government officials who have organized together to highjack (sic) and steal our Constitutional form of government from the people of the United States of America. I came to assist the people of the states that were derived from the Northwest Territories (sic) [see note below], to address the fraud involving lands that were defrauded from them, by organized efforts of individuals within Federal and State Governments.
I came to the assistance of Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond who were taxpayers that were victimized by public officials (who earn a living from taxpayers) for being taxpayers. The public employees who persecuted, prosecuted and incarcerated Dwight and Steven Hammond for trying to be taxpayers committed crimes against our constitutional form of government, against our society, myself and my children.
I am a victim, witness and informant to subversive activities and efforts organized by law Colleges, State and Federal Bar Associations, to attack our constitutional form of government and subversively, secretly force socialism, communism and imperialism types of government onto the people of the United States of America. The intention of these law professors and State and Federal Bar Association members is to create nobility for themselves, their prosperity and an oligarchy.
In an effort to silence me and prevent me from exposing the public corruption involved in the “intent to defraud” the people of the lands of the Northwest Territories by the Federal government, and the “unlawful persecution, prosecution and incarceration of the Hammonds”, State and Federal employees organized together to attempt to murder me and they executed my co-witness and co- informant Lavoy Finicum.
In an effort to expose the “intent to defraud” the people of the lands involved in the States derived from the Northwest Territories, we took Hostile Adverse Possession of the Mahler Wildlife Refuge, which is akin to a trespass. “Hostile Adverse Possession” is a legal way to challenge “clouded land titles” and un-cloud them. In order to prove the trespass charges against us, the Federal Government will have to rationally explain before a jury of my peers why the Federal Government refused to allow the states of the Northwest Territories to come in on the equal footing doctrine, of the original 13 states.
Furthermore the evidence will show that federal employees were determined to secretly extend the boundaries of the Malheur. The individuals who we allegedly interfered with were directly involved in subversive activities to secretly extend the boundaries of the Malheur, and take taxpayers (ranchers) lives, liberties and properties.
Evidence will show that individuals within the federal government have unlawfully placed the Federal lands (that were fraudulently withheld from the people in the states derived from the Northwest Territories) into hock for their national debt to their lenders and the International Monetary Fund.
I object to the court continuing to attempt to identify me as a subject of corporate United States of America, I ask the court to cease and desist this, and acknowledge I am a sovereign citizen with State and Federal constitutional rights and protections of law.
I am objecting to each and every judge who is a state or federal Bar Association member from presiding over my case.
I Claim I and the others involved in these actions have suffered damages from the works of the devil in excess of $666,666,666,666.66
[666 is, of course, the “number of the beast” in chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation.]
Note: Cox repeatedly refers to the states derived from the “Northwest Territories”, but the region known as the Northwest Territory at the time of the ratification of the US Constitution was east of the Mississippi River, was claimed by the 13 colonies, ceded by the states to the federal government, and became the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created a single Northwest Territory for western lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, and provided that newly formed states within the Territory should be on “an equal footing” with the original thirteen states in terms of independence and sovereignty.
The “equal footing” claim not only didn’t apply to later acquired territories, but was proposed and rejected at the Constitutional Convention, leaving it to the federal Congress to determine future land issues.
The Northwest Ordinance did, however, provide for continued federal land primacy: “The Legislatures of those districts, or new States, shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the Soil by the United States in Congress Assembled, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers.”
Police Shield Bill Passes Oregon House
The House approved HB 4087, which would allow a judge to prevent the disclosure of a police officer’s name in the event of a credible threat to the officer or the officer’s family (as in the case of the OSP officer who shot LaVoy Finicum), on 55-3 vote. It now heads to the Senate. The bill has an emergency clause, which means it would go into effect as soon as the governor signs it.
Thursday, February 18:
Federal indictments were unsealed in Nevada against Cliven Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne and Peter Santilli for 16 felony counts related to the April 2014 armed conflict with Bureau of Land Management agents.
Each is charged with conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, conspiring to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstructing justice, two counts of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
The indictment also includes five counts of criminal forfeiture against each defendant, which means that following conviction, they will face forfeiture of property obtained from the proceeds of their crimes, totaling at least $3 million, including Bundy’s cattle that still roam free year round at the Bunkerville Allotment and Lake Mead National Recreational Area in Nevada.
“He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them,” according to federal prosecutors.
The defendants also face forfeiture of firearms and ammunition used in the April 12, 2014, standoff with federal authorities.
Costs of Occupation Mounting
The armed occupation of a federal building in Oregon cost state and local agencies at least $2 million in 41 days. For Harney County alone, the first week cost $263,196, in part because of school closures.
The occupation cost Oregon State Police $943,735 in January, records show. By the time the siege ended, other local agencies spent more than $788,000, according to data compiled by the FBI. The takeover required more than 10,000 overtime hours from state and local authorities, totaling nearly $1 million in compensation.
Those numbers will keep rising in the aftermath. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said the county has not yet calculated its complete cost for the occupation. He expects the rural county to see hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional charges. Costs for cleanup and further investigation haven’t been calculated.
Friday, February 19:
The Land De-Federalization Movement Reaches the Presidential Campaign Trail
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is running a TV ad that starts by explaining that 85% of Nevada is owned and regulated by the federal government, and goes on to say that he “will fight day and night” to return the land to its “rightful owners – its citizens”.
The Nevada State Constitution, however, acknowledges the authority of the federal government, stating that “the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States…”
Regarding the 85% of Nevada that is federal land, the state constitution says: “The people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”
Score: Bundy Campaign 0 – Wildlife Supporters 30,000+
While the goals of the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were not met – not a single day cut from the Hammonds’ prison sentence, not an acre of federal land transferred to the state or county, nor the start of a 2nd American Revolution – groups that oppose the policies and positions of the occupiers are benefiting substantially.
The Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge raised more than $30,000 in donations during that time and saw its membership skyrocket from 130 to 700 members. The not-for-profit organization, which provides programs and plans projects at the wildlife refuge and has been forced out of its office and home there, sees the growing interest and support as the silver lining of a very clouded event.
In addition to money, hundreds of people are volunteering to help clean up the refuge once law enforcement finishes its work. Executive Director Tim Blount says that between the Friends group and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, at least 1,000 people have said they would travel to Harney County to clean and repair refuge buildings.
Blount, whose home is at the Refuge, has been forced to live, courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, in an undisclosed location outside of Harney County.
National Support for Federal Refuges Growing
“I think this illegal occupation has raised awareness of wildlife refuges in general, and Malheur specifically,” says Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “We have heard from people from all over the country and all over the world that were concerned and angry about the occupation and who wanted to know what they could do to help.”
The group Getting Occupiers of the Historic Oregon Malheur Evicted (G.O.H.O.M.E.) raised $135,647 from 1,643 donors during the standoff. The funds will go to four organizations: Burns’ Paiute Tribe (which claims title to refuge land), Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions (advocating for better gun laws), the Southern Poverty Law Center (which researches extremist groups) and the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
There’s also a bit of irony in the occupation’s goal of dismantling federal control of the land, Audubon’s Sallinger says. “The Malheur refuge was a good example of cooperation among ranchers, conservation groups, federal officials and the Burns Paiute Tribe.”
“My hope is that what this event will ultimately do is catalyze and even stronger public lands movement across the United States, as well as provide much needed support for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the amazing collaborative efforts that occurring on and around the refuge,” Sallinger says.
There are 21 national wildlife refuges in Oregon, and 561 across the nation, most of which are open year-round to the public.
The New Normal
“In a way, part of the innocence of the wildlife refuge has been affected,” Blount says. “I still don’t know what the new normal looks like. Nobody does at this point.”
Sallinger hopes prosecution of the Harney County occupiers sends a message to others planning future actions. “An armed illegal occupation that included threats and intimidation, destruction of public property and natural resources, and interference with Native American artifacts, is not a political statement; it is a criminal activity,” he says.
“The best way to repudiate this kind of illegal activity would be for the Bundys to watch from a jail cell as the community, conservation groups, the Paiutes and the refuge move forward on the collaborative path we were already traveling together before the occupation began.”
Tuesday, February 23:
FBI Ends Evidence Collection At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
News Release from FBI – Oregon:
On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, FBI personnel completed the evidence collection process at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, turning control of the facility over to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Please note that the refuge is not yet open to the media or to the public, and it will not be open until the US Attorney’s Office and the US Fish and Wildlife Service determine that it is appropriate to do so.
When the 41-day occupation of the refuge ended peacefully on February 11, 2016, the FBI immediately secured the refuge’s buildings and property. Over the next two weeks, FBI-led teams:
- Conducted a tactical clearing of the refuge to ensure there were no remaining occupiers
- Performed bomb sweeps to identify and mitigate any explosive-related hazards
- Utilized Evidence Response Teams from multiple FBI field offices to document and collect evidence related to potential crimes committed during the occupation
- Deployed forensic examiners from the Northwest Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (NWRCFL) to recover and process computers and electronic devices
- Deployed agents with the FBI Art Crime Team to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Burns Paiute Tribe to identify and document any potential damage to the tribe’s artifacts and sacred lands
Addendum 7: Arrests, Indictments, Investigation & Followup
At approximately 4:25 PM on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, FBI and OSP began a law enforcement action to bring into custody the people riding in two separate vehicles as they traveled between Burns and John Day.
Arrested on Highway 395:
- Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho
- Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana
- Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah
Ryan C. Bundy received a non-life-threatening injury to his arm.
LaVoy Finicum, 54, of Cane Beds, Arizona was killed by gunfire.
Arrested in Burns on January 26 between 5:50 and 6:30 PM:
6. Joseph Donald “Captain” O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona
7. Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio
Arrested in Peoria, Arizona at 8:30 PM:
8. Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, of Peoria, Arizona
Indictments Handed Down February 3 for Conspiracy to Impede Officers of the United States:
- Ammon Bundy
- Jon Ritzheimer
- Joseph O’shaughnessy
- Ryan Payne
- Ryan Bundy
- Brian Cavalier
- Shawna Cox
- Peter Santilli
- Jason Patrick
- Duane Leo Ehmer
- Dylan Anderson
- Sean Anderson
- David Lee Fry
- Jeff Wayne Banta
- Sandra Lynn Pfeifer Anderson
- Kenneth Medenbach
Cliven Bundy was taken into federal custody on the evening of February 10, 2016, in Portland, and charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, assault on a federal law enforcement officer, two counts of carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, obstruction of justice and interference with commerce by extortion – all in regard to the 2014 BLM standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada.
On Thursday, February 11th, 2016 at approximately 9:40 AM, the FBI brought the four remaining Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers into custody without incident:
- Sean Larry Anderson, age 47, of Riggins, Idaho
- Sandra Lynn Anderson, age 48, of Riggins, Idaho
- Jeff Wayne Banta, age 46, of Yerington, Nevada
- David Lee Fry, age 27, of Blanchester, Ohio
Federal indictments were unsealed in Nevada on Thursday, February 18 for 16 felonies related to the April 2014 armed conflict with Bureau of Land Management agents, against:
- Cliven Bundy
- Ammon Bundy
- Ryan Bundy
- Ryan Payne
- Peter Santilli
Each is charged with conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, conspiring to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstructing justice, two counts of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
The indictment also includes five counts of criminal forfeiture against each defendant, which means that following conviction, they will face forfeiture of property obtained from the proceeds of their crimes, totaling at least $3 million, including Bundy’s cattle that still roam free year round at the Bunkerville Allotment and Lake Mead National Recreational Area in Nevada.
The defendants also face forfeiture of firearms and ammunition used in the April 12, 2014, standoff with federal authorities.
Full List of Persons Indicted for the Malheur Occupation:
- Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of Crescent, Oregon, arrested in Burns on Jan. 15 on his way to the refuge
- Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, arrested at a roadblock on US 395 on Jan. 26
- Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada, arrested at a roadblock on US 395 on Jan. 26
- Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana, arrested at a roadblock on US 395 on Jan. 26
- Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada, arrested at a roadblock on US 395 on Jan. 26
- Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah, arrested at a roadblock on US 395 on Jan. 26
- Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona, arrested in Burns on Jan. 26
- Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, arrested in Burns on Jan. 26
- Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, Peoria, Arizona, surrendered in Peoria on Jan. 26
- Jason S. Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Georgia, arrested leaving the refuge Jan. 27
- Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Oregon, arrested leaving the refuge Jan. 27
- Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah, arrested leaving the refuge Jan. 27
- Jason Charles Blomgren, 41, of Murphy, North Carolina, arrested in Bunkerville, Nevada, on Feb. 10
- Sandra Lynn Anderson, 48, of Riggins, Idaho, surrendered at the refuge Feb. 11
- Sean Larry Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho, surrendered at the refuge Feb. 11
- Jeff Wayne Banta, 46, of Yerington, Nevada, surrendered at the refuge Feb. 11
- David Lee Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio, surrendered at the refuge Feb. 11
- Blaine Cooper, 36, of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, arrested in Springdale, Utah, Feb. 11
- Eric Lee Flores, 22, of Tulalip, Washington, arrested in Tulalip, Washington, on Feb. 11
- Wesley Kjar, 32, of Manti, Utah, arrested in Weber County, Utah, on Feb. 11
- Corey Lequieu, 44, of Fallon, Nevada, arrested in Nevada on Feb. 11
- Darryl William Thorn, 31, of Marysville, Washington, arrested in Bend on Feb. 11
- Neil Wampler, 68, of Los Osos, California, arrested in Los Osos on Feb. 11
- Geoffrey Stanek, 26, of Lafayette, Oregon, arrested in Forest Grove on Feb. 11
- Travis Cox of Oregon, arrested April 20, 2016 in Utah
- Jake Ryan, 25, of Plains, Montana, arrested April 5, 2016 in Washington
A new six-count grand jury indictment unsealed on March 9 charges 26 people, including an unnamed defendant, with federal conspiracy.
The following defendants are charged additionally with possessing firearms and dangerous weapons at the federal refuge:
- Ammon Bundy
- Ryan Bundy
- Jon Ritzheimer
- Ryan Payne
- Brian Cavalier
- Shawna Cox
- Jason Patrick
- Dylan Anderson
- Sean Anderson
- David Lee Fry
- Jeff Wayne Banta
- Sandra Lynn Anderson
- Wesley Kjar
- Corey Lequieu
- Jason Charles Blomgren
- Darryl Thorn
- Geoffrey Stanek
- Travis Cox
- Eric Lee Flores
- unnamed defendant (later revealed as Jake Ryan, 25, of Plains MT)
The following defendants are charged with use and carry of a firearm in the course of trying to impede federal officers from doing their jobs at the refuge:
- Ammon Bundy
- Ryan Bundy
- Jon Ritzheimer
- Ryan Payne
- Brian Cavalier
- Jason Patrick
- Sean Anderson
- David Fry
- Corey Lequieu
The following defendants are charged with theft of government property:
- Kenneth Medenbach, who allegedly stole and used a 2012 Ford F-350 truck that belonged to the US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Jon Ritzheimer and
- Ryan Bundy, who allegedly stole government cameras and related equipment during the course of the occupation
The following defendants are charged with depredation of government property in their alleged excavation of an archaeological site considered sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe:
- Sean Anderson
- the unnamed defendant
Jason C. Blomgren, 41, of North Carolina, one of those indicted on federal conspiracy and weapons charges, was released under conditions by a federal judge on March 9, after sharing with police officers that, though the occupation leaders never booby-trapped the wildlife sanctuary, they did talk about using improvised explosive devices (IEDS) when planning for a worst-case scenario and using at least two drones to spy on the FBI.
2014 Bunkerville Standoff
A redacted federal indictment filed March 2 in Las Vegas includes a total of 19 people charged in regard to the 2014 standoff in Nevada.
In addition to the original five:
- Cliven D. Bundy, 74, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho
- Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana
- Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio
The 14 newly charged are:
- David Bundy, 38, of Delta, Utah
- Melvin D. Bundy, 41, of Round Mountain, Nevada
- Brian D. Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Blaine Cooper, 36, of Humboldt, Arizona
- Gerald A. DeLemus, 61, of Rochester, New Hampshire
- Eric J. Parker, 32, of Hailey, Idaho
- O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis, Idaho
- Richard R. Lovelien, 52, of Westville, Oklahoma
- Steven A. Stewart, 36, of Hailey, Idaho
- Todd C. Engel, 48, of Boundary County, Idaho
- Gregory P. Burleson, 52, of Phoenix, Arizona
- Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 43, of Cottonwood, Arizona
- Micah L. McGuire, 31, of Chandler, Arizona
- Jason D. Woods, 30, of Chandler, Arizona
Twelve of the defendants were arrested March 3, while Brian Cavalier and Blaine Cooper were already in federal custody in the District of Oregon.
The fourteen additional defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, and at least one count of the following: using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of the due administration of justice, interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
The indictment also, upon conviction, would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.
The indictment alleges the 19 individuals conspired to create a massive, armed assault against federal law enforcement officers on April 12, 2014 in order to extort those officers into abandoning about 400 head of cattle that, “were in their lawful care and custody”.
LaVoy Finicum Shooting Investigation
On Tuesday, March 8, Malheur County district attorney Dan Norris and Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson reported on the result of the shooting investigation that Harney County district attorney Tim Colahan had asked them to pursue to avoid any appearance of lack of objectivity. The investigation was undertaken by the Central Oregon Major Incident team.
Investigators were able to sync law enforcement footage taken from an FBI plane with the cellphone video footage taken by Shawna Cox from inside Finicum’s truck. The synced video and evidence photos were released to the public.
Officer statements and the Cox cellphone video showed that Finicum repeatedly ignored police orders, first at the traffic stop and then after he crashed trying to elude officers, and that he nearly ran over an FBI agent before stalling in a roadside snowbank.
The law enforcement teams expected Finicum to be armed, since he was photographed repeatedly at the refuge with a holstered handgun. Investigators determined that five of the eight people in the Jeep and truck carried loaded handguns. Detectives also recovered three rifles, including two loaded .223-caliber assault weapons and a loaded .38-caliber revolver from Finicum’s truck, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the vehicles. Ammon Bundy was not armed.
“All six shots fired by the Oregon State Police, the three into the truck and the three that struck Mr. Finicum, are justified,” said Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris in a prepared statement. He said the shots were “in fact, necessary”.
Finicum was driving the truck that carried Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp. In the Jeep behind them was driver Mark McConnell, Brian Cavalier, and Ammon Bundy. They were bound for a community meeting 100 miles north of the refuge in John Day.
Around 4:20 PM, Finicum’s truck passed a state police tactical van and two state police tactical pickups waiting on Forest Service road 2820, followed by the Jeep ferrying Ammon Bundy and his bodyguard Brian Cavalier. Police fell in behind both vehicles, flipping on red and blue lights.
Mark C. McConnell, 37, of Buckeye, Arizona, steered his Jeep to the edge of the highway while Finicum drove another several hundred yards before rolling to a stop straddling the highway center line.
Ammon Bundy, McConnell and Cavalier surrendered without resistance.
Ryan Payne put both hands out the front passenger window of Finicum’s truck, with something in his hands, and police assumed that he had a weapon. A state trooper hit the truck with an orange 40mm round with a hard foam nose containing pepper spray, prompting Payne to retreat back into the truck.
In the truck, Finicum wanted to run, according to Shawna Cox, who was sitting in the back seat, while Payne wanted to surrender and yelled to police that he was stepping out. “I do have a gun on my right hip,” he said, and was told to step out with his hands in the air. He was soon in handcuffs.
Finicum over the next four minutes told police that he intended to drive on, according to video captured by Cox on her cellphone, and repeatedly referred to Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who was scheduled to be at the community meeting where Finicum and others were heading.
“The sheriff is waiting for us,” Finicum yelled out the driver’s window to the officers and agents staged behind his truck. He put his hands out the window and invited police to shoot. “Back down or you kill me now,” he said, and repeated twice more that he was going to meet the sheriff.
Payne had told police when he surrendered that women were among the passengers in the truck and they should be allowed out. The police apparently pressed Finicum to let that happen.
Finicum turned toward Cox and Victoria Sharp, the 18-year-old gospel singer sitting in the middle of the back seat, and asked “Want out?” “What for?” Cox responded. “What are we getting out for?”
Ryan Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nevada, seated behind Finicum, yelled out the window: “Who are you?” and Finicum echoed him, “Yeah, who are you?”
“Oregon State Police” came the reply. “I’m going over to meet the sheriff in Grant County,” Finicum said.
Police continued demanding Finicum turn off the truck and surrender, but they didn’t move against those in the truck since they were waiting for a trooper posted at McConnell’s Jeep to bring in a launcher with multiple pepper spray rounds.
Those in the truck talked about what to do next. “If we duck and you drive, what are they going to do?” Cox asked Finicum. “Try to knock us out?”
Finicum noted they still had 50 miles to go to reach John Day. “Who can we call?” Bundy asked. “Sheriff Palmer,” Finicum responded.
As Bundy and Cox tried to get a cell signal, Finicum continued yelling at police. “You want a blood bath?” he asked. “I’m going to be laying down here on the ground with my blood on the street or I’m going to see the sheriff.” He told police to back down and then told those in the truck, “I’m going to keep going.”
“Then we have to duck,” Cox said. “Where’s the guns?” Bundy asked. “You ready?” Finicum asked the group. “Go,” said Cox. “Gun it.”
Finicum accelerated north on the highway, traveling at an estimated 70 mph on the mountain road with a state police van in pursuit. Less than a minute later, Finicum rounded a corner to find two FBI pickup trucks and one state police vehicle facing him in the road.
A state trooper at the roadblock feared Finicum would plow into the trucks, injuring or killing police posted there, and fired three rounds from his AR-15, hitting the truck in the hood above the headlight, smashing off the driver’s mirror and hitting the radiator. The truck was just 100 feet away when the trooper fired the last shot.
“Hang on,” Finicum said as he encountered the roadblock and the first bullet hit the truck.
Another state trooper who had been posted along the highway edge had run for the woods as the truck approached to get out of the way, sinking into deep snow at one point, but recovering in time to make it to the protection of the tree line. An FBI agent also moved west off the road as the truck advanced.
“Hang on,” Finicum said a second time as he steered the truck to the left.
The FBI agent who had just moved was now in the path of the truck and dropped to the ground, bracing to be run over. Instead, Finicum’s truck created a wave of snow that buried him and stalled before hitting the agent.
Finicum instantly stepped out of the truck, his hands out to his sides at about shoulder height.
Investigators concluded that an FBI agent on the highway clipped off two shots, one that went wild and one that pierced the truck roof, shattered the left rear passenger window, and injured Ryan Bundy in the shoulder with a fragment.
Finicum then moved toward the back of his truck and out of view of Cox’s phone, but she was still able to record what was said outside the truck.
The trooper who had made it to the tree line drew his revolver and commanded Finicum to get on the ground.
“Go ahead and shoot me,” Finicum said. “Get on the ground,” the trooper yelled back. Finicum continued yelling “Shoot me” and “You’re going to have to shoot me.”
Finicum turned his attention from the trooper in the woods to two troopers coming up behind him, including the one who had fired at the truck. As Finicum shifted direction, the trooper in the woods holstered his gun and drew out his Taser.
Finicum at least twice reached with his right hand toward the inside of his left jacket, where he had a loaded Ruger SR9 semi-automatic pistol that had been a gift from his stepson. He then turned back toward the trooper approaching with the Taser, and again reached for his jacket. He was told again to get on the ground, the video recorded, and “in the midst of that command, Mr. Finicum grabs his jacket with his left hand and reaches with his right hand for his gun,” Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said.
Police later found the 9mm Ruger inside Finicum’s left jacket pocket, loaded with a round in the chamber. He had two magazines in his right jacket pocket.
“It was consistent with drawing a handgun,” the trooper with the Taser told investigators. He continued ordering Finicum to stop, telling investigators “He had the drop on me at this point.”
One of the troopers who had been coming up behind Finicum saw the same motion – “consistent with grabbing a firearm” is how he described it to investigators, and stated that he “needed to take action to stop him from being a threat” to the trooper with the Taser.
He fired two rounds, both striking Finicum in the back. At the same instant, another trooper nearby fired a single round into Finicum’s back. A fourth OSP trooper had taken his rifle off of safety and had his finger on the trigger with the intent to shoot, but did not after hearing the first shots and seeing Finicum fall.
Finicum was struck from behind in the left shoulder, the left upper back and the right lower back, a state autopsy found, and one bullet pierced his heart.
Finicum fell in the snow while police turned their attention to those still in the pickup truck. Bundy, Cox and Sharp weren’t clear what had happened. “Dammit,” Cox said at the sound of gunfire. “Are they shooting him?”
At that point, non-lethal sponge rounds can be heard striking the truck.
Sharp yells “Oh my God” and shouts that she is a medic, apparently wanting to go to help Finicum. The cellphone recording makes clear none of the three saw Finicum shot. “Where the hell is Lavoy?” Cox asked. “I can’t see,” said Bundy.
Thirteen seconds after Finicum left his truck, he was dying in the snow (see audio timeline below).
FBI Press Release on Shooting Investigation
March 8th, 2016
On January 26, 2016, along Highway 395 in Harney County, Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers and FBI agents put themselves in harm’s way as part of the effort to bring the situation at the refuge to an end peacefully. I can assure that no one, from the Director of the FBI down to each and every employee who was working in Harney County, wanted this situation to end in violence or death.
However, Mr. Finicum chose to break the law, put other people’s lives in danger, and, as the investigation shows, provoke a confrontation with law enforcement. As the sheriff and DA have shown, the threat Mr. Finicum posed to OSP troopers and agents along Highway 395 on that day was real and imminent, and certainly justified the use of deadly force by law enforcement.
As you have heard today, the investigation conducted by the Tri-County Major Incident Team determined that OSP troopers fired three shots at Mr. Finicum’s vehicle as it approached the law enforcement barricade at a high rate of speed, the vehicle nearly hitting a law enforcement officer. The team also determined OSP troopers fired three additional shots that struck and killed Mr. Finicum as he reached for his weapon after exiting his vehicle.
The county’s investigation also indicated that, in between the two series of shots fired by OSP troopers, one, and possibly two, additional shots were fired by law enforcement as Mr. Finicum was exiting the vehicle after hitting the snow bank. As autopsy results confirm, neither of these shots struck Mr. Finicum. The question of who fired these shots has not been resolved. Upon learning this, and given the FBI presence on scene, I immediately contacted our Inspection Division which notified the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General which is currently investigating this matter.
Because this is an ongoing matter, it would be inappropriate for me or anyone to speculate or comment further, but I can tell you that the FBI is fully cooperating with the Office of Inspector General.
Since January 2nd, the FBI has worked in partnership with Harney County and our law enforcement partners throughout the state to resolve the situation at the refuge. Since that time, hundreds upon hundreds of FBI employees traveled to Burns with the sole purpose of bringing this situation to a peaceful conclusion.
Working together with our partners, we have been able to do just that. The refuge is clear and will be re-opening soon. People who once feared for their safety are back in their homes. Those who chose to break the law will have their day in court. Life is not yet completely normal, but we are on the path to reconciliation and recovery.
FBI Agents Under Investigation
An FBI agent is suspected of lying about firing twice at Robert “LaVoy” Finicium and may have gotten help from four other FBI agents in covering up afterward, authorities revealed on Tuesday, March 8, when they announced the results of the independent shooting investigation.
The bullets didn’t hit Finicum and didn’t contribute to his death, but now all five unnamed agents, part of an elite national hostage rescue unit, are under criminal investigation by the US Justice Department. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is leading the independent inquiry.
Investigators from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office could account for bullet holes in the left front hood, the driver’s side mirror and the front grille, all of which came from the automatic weapon of a state trooper who had fired three times at the truck as Finicum raced at 70 mph toward a police roadblock on January 26. The angle of a fourth bullet hole didn’t match the others.
An elaborate computer analysis, a review of the FBI aerial video of the shooting scene and a video from a passenger in Finicum’s pickup showed conclusively that the fourth bullet came from an FBI agent, who subsequently twice denied to investigators firing his gun. As the investigation proceeded, detectives determined he also fired a second time, but didn’t hit anything at the scene.
The discovery of that gunfire and conduct afterward by the agent and four other agents have triggered a criminal investigation that could result in the prosecution of all five.
The Hostage Rescue Team is among the FBI’s most elite outfits. The members have no other job but to work full time as a SWAT-style group, operating from the FBI base in Quantico, Virginia.
One investigator working on the task force reported that he had been told soon after the shooting that two state troopers and two FBI agents had fired. He said the FBI agents approached him later to say they hadn’t fired their weapons.
In separate interviews later that night, those two FBI agents and the other three on duty at the shooting scene said they hadn’t discharged their weapons and repeated these statements in a second round of interviews February 5.
Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said “conclusive evidence” about the agents’ conduct was presented to US Attorney Bill Williams in Bend on February 18. The next day, the evidence was shown to Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the Portland FBI office. On February 20, agents from the Justice Department’s inspector general and the FBI’s Inspections Division traveled to Bend to review the evidence.
Sheriff Nelson and Malheur County district attorney Dan Norris, who is overseeing the shooting investigation, then traveled to brief top FBI officials in Washington.
Investigation Report Released
On March 10, The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office released 360 pages of reports from its investigation into the shooting death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
The reports include transcripts of accounts from the Oregon State Police troopers who shot Finicum, forensic reports about bullets, photographs from the shooting scene not previously released, and a detailed schematic of the scene.
The interview with Officer #1 revealed a change of plan on the location of the traffic stop and arrest, which was originally planned for Grant County, which would have been in the jurisdiction of Sheriff Glenn Palmer, a Bundy sympathizer who was going to speak at the event that Ammon Bundy and friends were heading toward.
“I knew going into it that there was a sheriff in Grant County that was supporting the movement or the ideology behind what [the occupiers] were pushing,” Officer #1 told investigators.
“I knew that there was a large amount of community members in Grant County that supported their beliefs … for a very simple way to put it it, they were not friendly to law enforcement conducting any enforcement actions, and mainly the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal agencies,” the officer said.
“That day there was discussions about a location which was actually in Grant County,” Officer #1 stated. “It was a large canyon that had tactically beneficial areas, and through the planning process, as you now know, we moved the location where we were going to conduct this traffic stop and arrest to – into Harney County.”
The concern was that large numbers of Bundy supporters might quickly converge on the arrest scene.
Firearms & Ammunition found in or about Finicum’s Pickup Truck
- Ruger SR9 9mm handgun (with chambered round) found in Finicum’s left inside jacket pocket, with two additional magazines in his right pocket
- (2) .223 caliber magazines hidden in blanket on dashboard
- Taurus 85 .38 special revolver with five live rounds found on left rear floor at Ryan Bundy’s seating location
- (2) Smith & Wesson MP15 .223 caliber semi-automatic assault rifles with full magazines under rear seat, owned by Finicum
According to investigation documents, the Ruger SR9 found on Finicum was originally sold to Justin Aaron Plimley in Arizona on 9/1/2011, who sold it to Dustin Riddle in December 2013, who sold it to Thomas Kinne in 2014, who told a deputy he purchased the gun as a gift for Finicum, his step-father.
Other Firearms Taken as Evidence:
- FNH, model FNP .40 caliber pistol removed from Ryan Payne
- Ruger SR-556 AR-type rifle taken from the rear cargo area of McConnell’s jeep
- Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistol (with a round chambered) taken off of Mark McConnell
Officer 1: Waiting at the roadblock. Fired and hit Finicum’s truck three times as it bore down on the roadblock. Fired two shots that hit Finicum. Armed with a .223 caliber AR-15.
Officer 2: In a state police truck pursuing Finicum after he sped away from the first traffic stop. Fired one shot that hit Finicum. Armed with a .308 caliber AR-10.
Officer 3: In the tree line with the Taser after staging at the roadblock.
Officer 4: Driving the state police truck pursuing Finicum, was preparing to shoot Finicum when the other troopers fired. Armed with a .308 caliber HK91.
Investigatory Interviews with Officers Involved in Shooting
Officer 2: “I had seen video in which he stated he wasn’t going to go to prison, and didn’t plan on being taken alive.”
Officer 2 said the shouted orders to Finicum to get out of the truck with his hands up “was ignored numerous times”.
Officer 4 fired a non-lethal round containing pepper spray at Payne, who had reached out of the pickup with something officers feared might be a gun, but it “hit the canopy and he flinched”. “He goes back in and there was a pause and he does say, ‘OK, I’m comin’ out’.”
Officer 2: When Finicum wouldn’t surrender, the team was preparing to fire a pepper spray canister into the truck when Finicum suddenly sped away.
Officer 1, who took a position on the east side of the highway, as Finicum bore down on the roadblock at 70 mph, said “It got to a point where I believe without a doubt it could not stop. It was going to run into our roadblock, which would have resulted in the death or serious injury of multiple officers.” He said he believed he had “no other option” but to fire several rounds from his AR-15, aiming for the driver area and the motor.
Officer 3, who was in the tree line, commanded Finicum to get on the ground.
Officer 1 moved out toward Finicum, as Officer 2 and Officer 4 got out of a chasing police van.
Officer 1: “Finicum was approaching me and looking at me. Finicum actively reached in an area that I believed and had information that he was carrying a firearm. He did this more than once.”
As Finicum turned toward Officer 3, who was moving out of the tree line and closing in on Finicum with his Taser, Officer 1 saw movement. “I know that motion to pull a gun out can happen faster than I can react to it, and I couldn’t wait for the gun to be pointed at Officer 3 or myself. Additionally, I know that a gun can be fired through a jacket right between his arm and his torso, which would have been in line with where Officer 3 was.”
Officer 1 said he knew he had to act. “I fired two rounds, what I thought was striking him in the center of his back.”
Nearby, Officer 2 saw Officer 3 was in jeopardy so “in order to protect him, I couldn’t wait for that pistol to come out”. As Finicum reached into his coat, Officer 2 said, “I had made a decision at that point that I’m going to fire my rifle, and had gone through the process of taking it off safe and started, and had my finger going to the trigger and was starting to squeeze it when Officer 1 fired, and so I was already in the process of firing my rifle at that point.” He fired once.
The shots came as the third trooper – identified as Officer 4 – readied to shoot as well. He told investigators he saw that Finicum twice “clearly” made a grab that looked as if he was “reachin’ for a gun … you could clearly see him reach inside”. Officer 4 said he was reaching for his gun’s safety “when I heard, uh, a couple of shots go off” and “that’s when I decided not to shoot”.
|Shawna Cox Cell Phone Video & Audio Record|
|5:22||0:00||Finicum: “Hang on.”|
|5:24||0:02||Cox: “They’re shooting.”|
|5:24||0:02||Finicum: “Hang on” as he careens off the road.|
|5:26||0:04||Pickup stops in snowbank.|
|5:30||0:08||0:00||Finicum yells “Go ahead and shoot me” as he exits the truck with his hands out to the side, and two rapid-sequence shots are heard immediately afterward (from FBI HRT).|
|5:34||0:12||0:04||Cox: “Stay down, stay down.” (as Finicum continues to shout “go ahead, shoot me”.)|
|5:37||0:15||0:07||Cox: “Stay down.”|
|5:38||0:16||0:08||As Officer #2 walks up into the tracks of Finicum’s truck in the snow, Finicum’s hands go toward his jacket.|
|5:39||0:17||0:09||Cox: “Stay down.”|
|5:40||0:18||0:10||Officer #3 emerges from the treeline and moves toward Finicum as Officer #2 aims his rifle.|
|5:41||0:19||0:11||Officer #3 extends his left arm with Taser while advancing toward Finicum, and Finicum turns toward Officer #3 moving his hands again into his coat, and continuing to shout “go ahead, shoot me”.|
|5:42||0:20||0:12||Officer #1 fires first shot from behind OSP roadblock truck, followed by two more in quick succession (from Officer #1 and Officer #2).|
|5:43||0:21||0:13||0:00||Finicum goes down.|
|5:44||0:22||0:14||Cox: “Damn it, are they shooting at him?”|
|5:45||0:23||0:15||0:02||Cox: “Did they shoot him?”|
|5:47||0:25||0:17||Cox: “You ass holes.”|
|5:49||0:27||0:19||Sharp: (screaming) “Oh my God!”|
|5:51||0:29||0:21||Cox: “Stay down.”|
|5:53||0:31||0:23||Sharp: (breathless) “Is he dead?”|
|5:55||0:33||0:25||Sharp: screaming unintellibly|
|5:59||0:37||0:29||Bundy: “Are you hit?”|
|6:01||0:39||0:31||Sharp: screaming about being an EMT|
|6:02||0:40||0:32||Cox: “Hold on, hold on.”|
|6:03||0:41||0:33||Sharp: “They’re shooting!”|
|6:04||0:42||0:34||Cox: “Don’t do anything.”|
|6:06||0:44||0:36||0:23||Cox: “Where the hell is LaVoy?”|
|6:09||0:47||0:39||Cox: “They’re shooting.”|
|6:10||0:48||0:40||0:27||Bundy (with head down at seat): “I can’t see.”|
|6:13||0:51||0:43||Sharp screams “Let me out of here.”|
|6:14||0:52||0:44||Cox: “Shut up!”|
|6:15||0:53||0:45||Cox: “Stay down.”|
|6:17||0:55||0:47||Sharp still screaming.|
|6:18||0:56||0:48||Cox (firmly): “Stay down, stay down.”|
|6:20||0:58||0:50||Another shot heard.|
|6:28||1:06||0:58||0:45||Sharp: “Did they kill him?”|
|6:30||1:08||1:00||Cox: “I think they’re shooting over here on this door.|
|6:33||1:11||1:03||Bundy (calmly): “I got hit too.”|
|6:38||1:16||1:08||Bundy: “I’m not bleeding.”|
|6:45||1:23||1:15||Another shot heard.|
|6:48||1:26||1:18||Cox: “Shit, I don’t want to get out of the car.”|
|6:56||1:34||1:26||Another shot heard.|
|6:57||1:35||1:27||Cox (loudly): “Shit!”|
|6:58||1:36||1:28||Cox: “Quit shooting our windows.”|
|7:01||1:39||1:31||Cox: “They’re trying to break our window.”|
|7:07||1:45||1:37||Sharp & Cox praying for protection.|
|7:34||2:12||2:04||Cox: “I can see lasers going by.”|
|7:40||2:18||2:10||Four Officers stage in snowbank above and behind driver’s side of truck.|
|7:50||2:28||2:20||Bundy (shouting loudly): “STOP!”|
|7:52||2:30||2:22||Cox: “I don’t dare get out because they’ll shoot me.”|
|8:12||2:50||2:42||Another shot heard.|
|8:13||2:51||2:43||Cox: “Why do they keep shooting?”|
|8:20||2:58||2:50||Bundy (shouting loudly): “STOP!”|
|8:22||3:00||2:52||Bundy (shouting loudly): “STOP!”|
|8:26||3:04||2:56||Bundy (shouting loudly): “STOP!”|
|8:28||3:06||2:58||More shots heard.|
|8:32||3:10||3:02||Cox: “This is ridiculous, this is stupid.”|
|8:36||3:14||3:06||Cox: “Are they going to kill all of us?”|
|8:44||3:22||3:14||Bundy: “That was a gas round.”|
|8:45||3:23||3:15||(sounds of breathing distress)|
|8:49||3:27||3:19||Cox: “Should we get out?”|
|8:56||3:34||3:26||Cox (with difficulty): “I can’t breath.”|
|9:00||3:38||3:30||Cox (with difficulty): “I can’t breath.”|
|9:22||4:00||3:52||Cox: “They got lasers still on us.”|
|9:25||4:03||3:55||Bundy: “They got lasers still on us. LaVoy got out. I think they killed LaVoy.”|
|9:28||4:06||3:58||Bundy: “They just shot gas rounds in the car.”|
|9:32||4:10||4:02||Bundy: “We’re hunkered down in here, trying not to…”|
|9:34||4:12||4:04||More shots heard.|
|9:42||4:20||4:12||Bundy: “They’re shooting more gas rounds…”|
|9:44||4:22||4:14||Bundy: “The gas is getting pretty thick in here.”|
|10:02||4:40||4:32||Sharp: “Can we put a white flag out?”|
|10:18||4:56||4:48||Cox: “They’re trying to break this window.”|
|10:35||5:13||5:05||Bundy: “They ambushed us on the way to John Day.”|
|10:39||5:17||5:09||Bundy: “And now they’re shooting into our vehicle.”|
|10:41||5:19||5:11||Bundy: “And we’re hunkered down.”|
|10:45||5:23||5:15||Bundy: “We do not have phone service at this location.”|
|10:50||5:28||5:20||OSP: Come out the left side door.|
|10:55||5:33||5:25||Sharp struggles to get out over Bundy.|
|11:06||5:44||5:36||OSP: The man first, the man first.|
|11:16||5:54||5:46||5:33||Bundy (as he gets out of truck): “LaVoy is dead.”|
|12:02||6:40||6:32||6:19||Sharp (as she gets ready to leave the truck, squealing): “He’s dead.”|
|12:07||6:45||6:37||OSP: M’am, come out of the car with your hands up.|
|12:11||6:49||6:41||Sharp exits truck with lasers on her head.|
|END OF VIDEO|
Finicum went down 13 seconds after exiting his truck, yelling repeatedly “shoot me”.
Two seconds later, Shawna Cox asks “did they shoot him?”
21 seconds later, Cox asks “where the hell is LaVoy?” and keeps repeating “stay down”.
27 seconds after the shooting, Bundy, with his head down at the seat, says “I can’t see”.
43 seconds after Finicum goes down, Sharp asks “Did they kill him?”
It’s not until 5 and a half minutes after Finicum is shot that Ryan Bundy, as he exits the truck to be arrested, says “LaVoy is dead”.
Update on FBI Malfeasance
The Oregonian reported on March 15 that sources inside the investigation said a state trooper described seeing two rifle casings in the area where the FBI agents were posted. Detectives tasked with collecting evidence didn’t find the casings, according to police reports.
FBI aerial surveillance video, which continued for an hour after the shooting, shows that 90 minutes before detectives could get there, the FBI agents searched the area with flashlights and then huddled, before one agent appeared to bend over twice and pick something up, according to law enforcement sources who have seen the video.
OSP Officer #5 told investigators that he saw two rifle casings in the area of the roadblock that he described as copper-colored. Troopers use state-issued ammunition that comes in silver-colored casings.
At the time Finicum crashed, four FBI agents were posted at the roadblock, and two were between the FBI pickup parked in the southbound lane and Finicum’s truck, within the cone of trajectory of the bullet that penetrated the roof of Finicum’s truck.
Oregon’s Patriot Movement Seeks Local Office
An investigative article titled “Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary” by Spencer Sunshine PhD, was posted online April 19, 2016 and will be published by the Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates. The core of the article is here:
In the wake of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a slew of candidates linked to the so-called Patriot movement are running for office in Oregon, including in the upcoming May primary. These often-armed, Hard Right activists organized the initial demonstration that preceded the occupation and helped build political support for the occupiers’ demands. These demands included the transfer of federally owned public lands to state or county governments in order to avoid land-use restrictions, as well as attempts to circumvent the federal government’s decision-making powers by invoking legally groundless claims about the authority of state and county governments.
For the last few years, the state’s Patriot movement largely focused on non-electoral movement building; some county sheriffs and a handful of other officials were affiliated with its aims, but by and large it remained outside of the electoral arena. This is changing with Oregon’s May 17, 2016 primary election. In several counties where Oregon’s Patriot movement is strong – including Josephine, Crook, Baker, Douglas, and Harney – candidates tied to the movement are running for office. These candidates include key Patriot movement leaders such as Joseph Rice, as well as Republicans who are courting the movement for votes.
The Patriot movement is a Hard Right movement that is trying to radically transform US political and legal institutions. It seeks to implement a form of right-wing decentralization, including the abolition of environmental laws and the social safety net, replacing them with almost completely unrestricted capitalism, all based on an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution and various conspiracy theories which support their political views.
The movement also relies on a number of crank “legal” strategies that have no basis in law. The most important is “nullification”, the notion that a lower government (such as the county or state) can ignore laws passed by a higher authority (usually the federal government). One popular form of nullification is the false claim that county sheriffs have the authority to decide which laws are unconstitutional and therefore should not be enforced.
The movement also promotes the concept of “coordination”: the false idea that federal agencies must comply with county government plans regarding land-use decisions, usually about natural resource extraction on federal lands that are within a county’s borders. Coordination is a new form of “county supremacy”, an idea popular in the 1990s that is re-emerging. By 1996, 70 counties had passed laws attempting to gain control over federal lands.
Related to this, many in the movement believe the federal government has no legal right to own most public land, which they think should be transferred to state or county control. All of these positions reflect hostility toward the federal government, which is not uncommon in the rural West.
Harney County Voters Repudiate Candidates who Supported the Occupation
Harney County citizens voted decisively in the May primary for candidates who opposed the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. And they turned out in record numbers, with 72% of eligible voters submitting ballots, the highest voter participation in the state of Oregon.
Harney County had more candidates on the ballot than in any primary election in recent history. In discussions about federal lands, some candidates echoed the rhetoric of Ammon Bundy and other occupation leaders.
But voters were clear they preferred candidates who opposed the occupation. For the county judge seat, vacated by retiring Steve Grasty who was targeted by occupation defenders as the “enemy”, current county commissioner Pete Runnels got 53% of the vote. That means he’ll take office without a November runoff.
For the county commissioner race, two candidates who also opposed the occupation will face off in November: political newcomer Mark Owens, who works in the hay and farming industries, and incumbent Dan Nichols, who decided to run at the last minute because he felt Harney County needed consistency in leadership after the occupation.
Addendum 8: Plea Deal & Trials
Jury selection for eight defendants will begin in Portland OR federal court on September 7, 2016, with opening statements scheduled for September 13.
Bottom: Kenneth Medenbach, Jeff Wayne Banta, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox
The eight face charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers. Some are also charged with possession of firearms at a federal facility and theft of government property. If convicted, the defendants could face between 6 years and two decades in prison.
Charges against the eight
Ammon Bundy: Conspiracy to impede officers, possession of firearms at a federal facility
Ryan Bundy: Conspiracy, possession of firearms in a federal facility, theft of government property
Shawna Cox: Conspiracy to impede officers, possession of firearms at a federal facility
Kenneth Medenbach: Conspiracy, theft of government property
David Lee Fry: Conspiracy, possession of firearms at a federal facility
Jeff Wayne Banta: Conspiracy, possession of firearms in a federal facility
Peter Santilli: Conspiracy (dropped 9/6/2016)
Neil Wampler: Conspiracy
Of the others facing charges for the Oregon standoff, 11 have taken plea deals so far and another seven are scheduled to stand trial Feb. 14, 2017. Those who took plea deals have either agreed to or will likely face between six months of home detention and 3 ½ years in prison.
The trial is expected to last for three months, and because of the unusual length, the jury box will hold up to 20 people instead of the standard 16.
Just 25 people, including friends and family of the defendants, will be able to watch the trial in the courtroom. Most of the media and other observers will be watching a live stream of proceedings from a nearby courtroom. No photography or recording is allowed.
Three of the defendants – Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox and Kenneth Medenbach – will be representing themselves, under a strict agreement not to bring up any issue before the jury which has already been resolved in pre-trial hearings.
The prosecution intends to call Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty and BLM Special Agent Jason Curry to the stand, as well as seven refuge workers, to testify as to the facts of the incident.
Those who took plea deals are: Jon Ritzheimer, Joseph O-Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, Blaine Cooper, Wesley Kjar, Corey Lequieu, Jason Blomgren, Geoffrey Stanek, Travis Cox, and Eric Lee Flores.
Those who will be tried on Feb. 14, 2017: Jason Patrick, Duane Leo Ehmer, Dylan Anderson, Sean Anderson, Sandra Lynn Anderson, Darryl William Thorn, and Jake Ryan.
Trial for the other seven – the Bundy brothers, Cox, Banta, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, and David Fry – began on September 13.
Addendum 9: The Trial, The Verdict, The Reaction
Trial #1 Summary
Jury selection began Sept. 7 and prosecutors and defense attorneys chose twelve jurors and eight alternates from a pool of more than 250 Oregonians. The jury included eight women and four men from throughout Oregon.
Sept. 13: Opening statements began, and Harney County Sheriff David Ward was the first to testify the following day.
Sept. 23: Judge Anna Brown threatened to hold Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus Mumford, in contempt of court if he continues to bring up the death of protester Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
Sept. 27: Prosecutors rested their case after two weeks by presenting 22 long guns, 12 handguns and more than 18,000 rounds of ammunition recovered from the Refuge site.
Sept. 29: The defense began to present their case, with Ammon Bundy taking the stand on Oct 4 to testify to his belief that guns were necessary to protect their first amendment rights to assemble and protest.
Oct. 17: The defense rested its case, after seeking more information on the nine FBI confidential informants, and the prosecution quickly completed its rebuttal, with four additional witnesses. The defense gave a four-hour impassioned closing argument, essentially charging the jury with continuing the work of the defendants of preventing government over-reach.
Oct. 20: The jury began deliberations but found itself deadlocked after four days on four of the seven defendants and on 3 of the 13 charges.
Oct. 25: After the jury found itself deadlocked, Juror #4 sent a note to Judge Anna Brown, asking whether Juror #11 can be an impartial judge if he worked once for the BLM and admitted to bias. The judge questioned Juror #11 and allowed him to continue, but the next day received agreement from all parties to dismiss the juror “for good cause” and replace him with an alternate.
Oct. 26: The newly reconstituted jury was ordered to begin deliberations all over again.
Oct. 27: With Juror #11 gone, the jury quickly reached consensus on the acquittal of all seven defendants on all charges, though it remained deadlocked on a charge of theft of government property levied against Ryan Bundy. The decision surprised both defense attorneys and the prosecutors.
After the Verdict
Also on that day, Ammon Bundy attorney Marcus Mumford, after repeatedly and stridently demanding that the judge present written authorization to hold his client for trial in Nevada, was tackled and tased by six US Marshals and taken into custody for violating a lawful order.
Ironically, on the same day that the seven were acquitted, more than 140 non-violent demonstrators against the Dakota Access Pipeline were brutally arrested with militarized police forces using bean-bag rounds, pepper spray and an acoustic cannon on the peaceful crowd of Native Americans and their supporters.
The contrast between the kids-glove treatment of heavily-armed white men in Oregon and unarmed non-white protesters was not lost on most observers.
Ammon Bundy, from jail, remained defiant, saying “we will continue to stand” and the Bundy family warned of another standoff somewhere, possibly in the Gold Butte area if president Obama declares the land just south of the Bundy ranch a national monument.
In an email to the press, Juror #4 stated that, while the prosecution failed to prove intent to impede federal agents by force, threat or intimidation, also stated: “Don’t they know that ‘not guilty’ does not mean innocent? It was not lost on us that our verdict(s) might inspire future actions that are regrettable, but that sort of thinking was not permitted when considering the charges before us.” He also said that the verdict was “not any form of affirmation of the defense’s various beliefs, actions or aspirations”.
Curt Nickens, who identified himself as the dismissed Juror #11, a corrections officer for more than 20 years, who worked during college summers 20 years earlier for the BLM as a range tech and firefighter, wrote: “I was very critical of some of the defense’s evidence, and I saw certain things that others did not see, regarding the conspiracy charges. We were knocking heads, 3 or 4 of us in that jury room… Adverse possession basically tells you government employees were not allowed in the refuge by its own meaning. I took that more to heart than anyone else.”
Nickens also said he believes the fact that Juror 4 sent the judge a note about him, days after allegedly hearing him make any such remarks, made him suspect he did so purposely to do “a little end-run around me, and the rest was history”.
Analysis and opinion was divided on whether the prosecution reached too far and failed to make an adequate case for intent to impede federal agents by threat, force or intimidation – or whether this was an instance of jury nullification, a side effect of the constitutional guarantee of verdict by peers through a deliberative process that cannot be second-guessed in the event of acquittal.
Jury nullification, which is frowned on by courts but never ruled illegal, has its roots in English common law and a history in the US which goes back to at least 1735. It was heavily used during reconstruction n the South to acquit white racists of crimes against blacks, including lynching. And it is used today in cases in which jurors refuse to convict on a law they believe to be wrong.
In 1794, America’s first Chief Justice, John Jay (Georgia v. Brailsford), stipulated to a jury “that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.”
“The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court Justice, 1902-1932
As recently as 1972 (United States v. Dougherty), federal courts have upheld the de facto power of a jury to nullify the law. Though in 1997 (US v. Thomas), a federal appeals court ruled that jurors can be removed if there is evidence that they intend to nullify the law. Questioning of jurors’ deliberate process after the fact, however, is forbidden by law.
Supporters of the occupation celebrated what they saw as yet another victory against heavy-handed government power, while critics of the surprise verdict feared that it would send a message to anti-government extremists that armed actions such as the Malheur occupation would be treated with impunity.
Yet eleven co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty to the Malheur conspiracy charge (with Ryan Payne asking to rescind his guilty plea), seven others will face trial on the same charges in February, and seven of the Malheur occupiers (along with 12 others including patriarch Cliven Bundy) will be tried in Nevada on multiple charges from the 2014 Bunkerville standoff.
Addendum 10: Ryan Payne’s Attempt to Withdraw Guilty Plea
Ryan Payne, the army veteran who bragged about organizing the snipers at Bunkerville who forced the BLM to back down and played a similar role at the Malheur Refuge, was included in the Superceding Indictment of the 26 defendants.
On July 19. 2016, Payne entered a guilty plea in Oregon district court, admitting that he had engaged in a conspiracy to impede government officials from their duty. That made Payne the eighth defendant to plead guilty to conspiracy (ultimately 11 so pled) in the Malheur Occupation case.
In a plea deal that included talks with prosecutors in Nevada, the US attorney’s office in Oregon recommended that Payne’s likely 3½-year prison sentence run concurrently with any sentence he might receive (whether by trial or plea) for his role in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff. Payne would plead guilty only to Oregon charge #1 of conspiracy and the government would drop charge #2, the carrying of firearms in a federal facility. In Nevada, the offered deal called for Payne to plead guilty to three charges, with one involving the brandishing of a firearm that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years. Nevada prosecutors had planned to recommend 12 years in prison, though Payne could have argued for seven. Negotiations in Nevada broke down and the offer was rescinded.
On September 7, eight defendants were put on trial and eventually acquitted of all charges. The remaining seven were scheduled for trial on Feb. 14, 2017.
On November 18, following the conclusion of the first trial, Payne filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, based on new evidence that emerged during the trial of his co-conspirators that the FBI used paid informants, his allegedly equivocal acknowledgement of the facts and evidence of the case during his plea hearing, and his assumption at that time that a satisfactory plea deal on the Nevada charges would be forthcoming.
On December 28, US Judge Anna Brown denied Payne’s motion, declaring that Payne was given – prior to his plea – the all the information on the FBI’s 15 “confidential human sources” that they were required by law to provide; that it was clearly stated that the Nevada plea negotiations were merely “contemplated” at the time of plea on the Oregon charges, that it was explicitly stated and agreed that the two plea deals were independent of each other, that Payne had twice explicitly and unequivocally admitted his complicity in the conspiracy to impede, and that he understood that his plea was permanent, rendering his later change of heart to be nothing more than “buyer’s remorse”.
After Payne pled guilty to the stated charge of conspiracy, the following exchange occurred:
Judge Brown: What did you do, Mr. Payne, that you think makes you guilty of the charge?
Ryan Payne: Ah, your Honor, the very first adult decision that I ever made was when I was 17, to join the military of the United States. And in so doing, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. I traveled to Harney County, here in Oregon, under the pretense that this was my intent: that I was coming to uphold and defend the Constitution. In pursuing that effort, I understand I – I have come to understand that folks who were – who work for the Government, that that Constitution ordained, perceived my actions as threatening or intimidating. And, thereby, I – I understand myself to have been guilty of the charge that I’m charged with.
Judge Brown (reading from the plea deal):
I represent that I did the following acts and the following facts are true.
On or about November 5, 2015, and continuing through February 12, 2016, in the District of Oregon, I knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed with others to prevent by force, intimidation, and threats, officers and employees of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, agencies within the United States Department of the Interior, from discharging the duties of their office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and other locations in Harney County, Oregon.
Judge Brown: Do you understand that statement, sir?
Ryan Payne: I understand the statement, your Honor. Yes.
Judge Brown: Is it true?
Ryan Payne: I would only bring up one contention, which I overlooked previously, and that would be the – the notion that all three – force, intimidation, and threats – were committed, given the – the word “and” there. And would say…
Judge Brown: Would you be satisfied if “and” was replaced by “or”?
Ryan Payne: I would.
Additionally, Judge Brown determined – although Payne did not raise these issues – that the acquittal of his co-conspirators at trial was not sufficient grounds to offer Payne an opportunity to change his plea because it would allow the defendant to “have it both ways”: to bargain for a lesser outcome and have the advantage that a jury might acquit. She also ruled that allowing a change of plea would significantly prejudice the government, since it might require a third Oregon trial after Payne completes his Nevada trial. Brown also noted that the acquittal by jury of the eight initial Malheur defendants may have been due, in large part, to the absence of Payne at that trial.
Following the first trial, Juror #4 wrote in an email to Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian:
“I expected that there must be proof of conspiracy between Ammon and Ryan Payne (most logical link, owing to their initial visit to the Hammond’s place in early November) but he wasn’t even called for either side, nor were there any phone calls, emails, etc. that would demonstrate agreement here. These two major holes in the evidence record proved to cause insurmountable doubt for me.”
Addendum 11: Bunkerville Indictments & Trials
[I’ve appended the 2014 Bunkerville standoff legal outcome to the Malheur occupation story, since it was a direct result of the 2016 event, rather than the timely follow-up to the first armed confrontation.]
Cliven Bundy was taken into federal custody on the evening of February 10, 2016, in Portland OR, as he stepped off a flight from Las Vegas. Bundy was charged with assaulting a federal officer, using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, interfering with commerce by extortion and obstructing the administration of justice.
Cliven Bundy and four others – Ammon Bundy, Ryan Payne, and Peter T. Santilli, Jr. – were indicted by a federal grand jury on February 17 on up to 16 counts of nine felony charges: Conspiracy to Commit an Offense against the United States, Conspiracy to Impede and Injure a Federal Officer, Assault on a Federal Officer, Threatening a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, Use and Carry of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence, Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice, Interference with Interstate Commerce by Extortion, Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion, Aiding and Abetting.
In a superceding indictment on March 2, the defendant list was expanded to 19: Cliven D. Bundy, Ryan C. Bundy, Ammon E. Bundy, Ryan W. Payne, Peter T. Santilli, Jr., Melvin D. Bundy, David H. Bundy, Briand. Ca Valier, Blaine Cooper, Gerald A. Delemus, Eric J. Parker, O. Scott Drexler, Richard R Lovelien, Steven A. Stewart, Todd C. Engel, Gregory P. Burleson, Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, Micah L. Mcguire, and Jason D. Woods.
On August 24, Gerald “Jerry” DeLemus and Blaine Cooper pleaded guilty to two charges in return for the dropping of nine other charges and an expected six year prison sentence and up to three years of probation. In late October, DeLemus tried to withdraw his guilty plea, and his attorney withdrew from the case because of this. On December 6, Delemus was granted a 30-day continuance in his motion to change his plea. Because he was co-chairman of the Trump campaign in New Hampshire, his supporters hope that the Trump will offer a pardon once he assumes the presidency.
On December 12, US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, in response to multiple motions for severance or joinder, and as part of a complex calculus aimed at balancing witness safety, judicial efficiency and the defendants’ rights to a fair and speedy trial, ordered that the trial of the 17 defendants who have not entered guilty pleas shall be severed into three groups for three separate trials consisting of:
Tier 1: Cliven Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Peter Santilli, and Ryan Payne
Tier 2: Dave Bundy, Mel Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Brian Cavalier, Jason Woods, and Micah McGuire
Tier 3: Richard Lovelien, Todd Engel, Gregory Burleson, Eric Parker, O. Scott Drexler, and Steven Stewart
The Tier 3 defendants will proceed to trial February 6, 2017. The Tier 1 defendants will proceed to trial 30 days after the conclusion of the trial of the Tier 3 defendants. The Tier 2 defendants will proceed to trial 30 days after the conclusion of the trial of the Tier 1 defendants.
Addendum 12: Malheur Trial #2
February 6, 2017: Three of seven remaining defendants pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor trespass charge and were sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay $1,000 restitution to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Idaho couple Sean Anderson and Sandra Anderson and Dylan Anderson (unrelated) of Utah each admitted they entered, occupied and used the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge without authorization. As two special conditions of their probation, Judge Anna J. Brown ordered each not to travel to the refuge in Harney County and not to occupy or camp on any federal property without permission. They forfeited rights to guns or ammunition seized by the FBI at the refuge and waived their right to an appeal. All other felony and misdemeanor charges against them were dismissed.
February 7, 2017: Pretrial motions were heard, largely on what evidence or testimony would be admissible.
February 15, 2017: A jury of seven women and five men plus four alternates were chosen after a day and a half of questioning 58 prospective jurors out of an original pool of 1,000 people from across the state.
February 21, 2017: Opening arguments were presented as the second trial began. This time Assistant US Attorney Geoffrey Barrow told the jury that a finding of conspiracy does not require evidence of a formal meeting, written contract or verbal agreement, but merely a reasonable inference of a “meeting of the minds” from the words and actions of the defendants.
March 10, 2017: The jury delivered a split verdict, finding Jason Patrick, described by prosecutors as one of the organizers of the armed occupation, and Darryl Thorn, who worked on armed security details, guilty of conspiracy in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge but acquitting Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan of that charge. Ehmer and Ryan were found guilty of willfully damaging the refuge, or depredation of government property, by using a refuge excavator to dig two trenches. The jury also found Thorn guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal facility, but acquitted Patrick and Ryan of that charge.
March 21, 2017: Judge Brown found all four defendants guilty of trespassing, and Jason Patrick also guilty of destruction and removal of property. Early in the trial proceedings, Brown separated the misdemeanors from the felonies and pegged them for a bench trial over the objections of the defense.
Patrick, who was part of the initial group that seized the refuge, has said he will appeal the case. All four face years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for April. Thorn, Ehmer and Ryan remain free while awaiting sentencing but Patrick chose to turn himself in following the misdemeanor verdicts.
For the Prequel to this incident, see Cliven Bundy – Folk Hero or Scapegoat?
The philosophical sources of the new Range Wars and associated movements is explored in The New Anti-Federalists: The Wellspring of the Bundy Sagebrush Insurrection
To understand the psychology behind such mass delusions, see Propaganda, the Collective Unconscious, and Mass Movements.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes and a link to this page