A federal criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Oregon reveals new, disturbing details about an ongoing wildlife refuge standoff in Oregon that has stretched more than three weeks now and already left one dead.
The document — which was filed Tuesday and unsealed Wednesday — accuses Ammon Bundy and the group he led of intimidating and interrupting life in Eastern Oregon for months before they finally stormed the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, destroyed fences and parked vehicles along the entrance of the preserve.
According to the document, Ammon Bundy — son of Cliven Bundy — and Montana rancher Ryan Payne visited Harney County Sheriff David Ward as far back as Oct. 5, 2015 when they warned that “if the Hammonds spent one more day in jail there would be ‘extreme civil unrest.'” Dwight and Stephen Hammond were a local father and son duo who had been convicted of setting fires on federal lands and had a low history of run-ins with federal officials.
But the complaint, based on the affidavit of FBI agent Katherine Armstrong, alleges that Bundy’s group of militiamen also descended upon the community of Burns and scared local residents.
Arizona man and known anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer (who has since been arrested) allegedly intimidated at least one community member. According to the complaint, Ritzheimer and one other person who is not identified in the account, allegedly approached a woman wearing a Bureau of Land Management shirt at a local Safeway on December 18, 2015 and made threats against her. The document alleges that the unnamed individual was yelling, “You’re BLM. You’re BLM” at her. That person also allegedly threatened to follow her home and burn her house down.
Ritzheimer and the other individual then left the Safeway in a black pickup truck that had “no visible license plate,” the complaint said. After the event the woman alleged that she saw a similar vehicle parked outside of her house and again, at her work on Christmas Day. She also reported seeing another vehicle following her closely at another date.
At the refuge, the affidavit alleges that individuals holed up at Malheur had an arsenal, which included “night vision goggles, explosives and weapons and that if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there, they would bring the fight to town.”
According to the document, some of the individuals sympathetic to Bundy cause stayed in Burns, which is why ultimately, “BLM made the decision to close the Burns District Office.”
Beyond threats, the affidavit also alleges that the presences of the militants on the expansive refuge has severely interrupted individuals’ abilities to work. According to the document, there are 16 federal employees who work at Malheur, including one who lives on the property.
Read the full Department of Justice complaint below: