Community meeting held in Burns while armed group continues to o - KPTV - FOX 12

Community meeting held in Burns while armed group continues to occupy wildlife refuge

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Sheriff David Ward Sheriff David Ward

Intimidation, vandalism, harassment. Those are the strong words coming from an Eastern Oregon sheriff, as he talks about the behavior of armed militants taking over a federal wildlife refuge.

"We need to work through this sooner rather than later. Please go home."

Sheriff David Ward took center stage at a community meeting in Burns on Monday. Making yet another firm plea for the militant group to leave Burns.

Ward said since the group got to town, they've seen an uptick in vandalism, harassment and intimidation reports, and now he says those members have followed law enforcement to their homes and appear to be tracking their movements, even watching their families.

Ward says U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees have also been tailed and in some cases confronted by self identified militia members while out running errands.

"The fact is, there are a lot of issues that need to be worked through in this country, there really are. And we're the folks who need to start working on it. But we don't need a bunch of negativity in our community. We don't need people wandering around worrying about what's going to happen to them," said Sheriff Ward.

On Monday morning, Ammon Bundy, a spokesperson for the group addressed the media. He said the situation goes far beyond just this one piece of federal land. Repeating their message about property belonging to the people, not the government.

While using government equipment, Bundy's group then tore down a fence pole by pole, a fence once separating a ranchers land from federal land. 

Bundy said it's part of a bigger plan to return that land back to the people of Harney County.

"It is our duty when they will not step back into the cage given to them, it is our duty as a people to assure they have done that. And that is what we're doing here," he said.

Bundy also noted that he and his followers are going through government documents stored inside refuge buildings.

Sheriff Ward says, to be clear, law enforcement will not be intimidated from doing their jobs. They will continue to work together to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation, but stresses the behavior of militants is only escalating the situation.

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