Affidavit outlines alleged threats, details of FBI investigation - KPTV - FOX 12

Affidavit outlines alleged threats, details of FBI investigation into wildlife refuge occupiers

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Eight suspects arrested in connection to armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Eight suspects arrested in connection to armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Scene of deadly confrontation between law enforcement and wildlife refuge occupiers on Highway 395 from Air 12. Scene of deadly confrontation between law enforcement and wildlife refuge occupiers on Highway 395 from Air 12.
Police on Highway 395 on Tuesday Police on Highway 395 on Tuesday
Occupiers remained at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday morning (Image from Air 12) Occupiers remained at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday morning (Image from Air 12)
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    Courtesy: Multnomah Co. JailCourtesy: Multnomah Co. Jail

    Speaking through his attorney Wednesday afternoon, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed protest and occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, told those remaining at the refuge to stand down.

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    Speaking through his attorney Wednesday afternoon, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed protest and occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, told those remaining at the refuge to stand down.

    More >
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Court documents outline how the FBI worked to establish probable cause for the arrests of members of an armed militia who took over a rural Oregon wildlife refuge.

A 32-page affidavit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court states the group's leader, Ammon Bundy, along with Ryan Payne, met with Harney County Sheriff David Ward on Oct. 5, 2015 and said he needed to protect ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond from returning to prison or there would be "extreme civil unrest."

The Hammonds were convicted of arson in 2012 and sentenced to prison. However, in October 2015 they were re-sentenced to a mandatory five-year prison term.

They reported to federal prison in California to serve the remainder of their sentences on Jan. 4.

"Prior to surrendering to serve their sentences, the Hammonds, through their attorney, continued to distances themselves from Bundy and his group," the affidavit states.

Harassment allegations

 Videos began to surface online in December showing members of Bundy's group in Harney County. In one, the man in the video states he is doing some "tactical camping," and in another he holds a flier for a meeting that states there will be a "presentation on committee of safety by Ryan Payne."

Payne was among the eight people arrested Tuesday in connection to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that began on Jan. 2. CNN reported that group spokesman LaVoy Finicum was killed in the confrontation with law enforcement on Highway 395.

Prior to the refuge occupation, investigators said two men confronted a woman wearing a BLM shirt in the Safeway store in Burns on Dec. 18. One of the men was identified as Jon Ritzheimer, who was also arrested Tuesday after turning himself in to authorities in Arizona.

Court documents state one of the men shouted at the woman, "you're BLM, you're BLM," and then stated they know what car she drives and would follow her home and burn down her house.

A probable cause affidavit states the woman told investigators she was later "aggressively" tailgated by a white truck with a large rebel flag sticker on the back window that was driving erratically and flashing lights at her. She also reported a suspicious black truck parked outside her home and office on separate occasions.

Refuge, BLM office shut down

When the occupation began, according to court documents, a deputy reported that a source informed him that the group had explosives, night vision goggles and weapons, "and that if they didn't get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town."

The BLM district office in Burns was closed indefinitely on Jan. 4, "out of concern for the safety of the approximate (sic) 80 employees who work there," court documents state.

Those documents also state the 16 federal employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who work at the refuge "have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property."

They have been unable to conduct any official operations at the refuge, including, "critical management requirements, law enforcement operations, visitor services and essential maintenance activities," according to a federal affidavit.

"Any and all legal arrangements that exist with contractors and other business collaborators are being hindered resulting in loss of time, funding and critical management elements," the affidavit states.

YouTube host's involvement

The federal affidavit outlines numerous videos posted online by the occupiers, including those of YouTube show host Pete Santilli.

Santilli was among the suspects arrested Tuesday. In the videos he often wears a vest that says "PRESS" with his name below it, court documents state, and he professed to be a "member of the media" who would cover the situation in ways "mainstream media" would not.

In one video, an affidavit states, Santilli said, "We must get the federal government to comply with our peaceful demands, otherwise we have to explore all opportunities that we have made available to us through our founding fathers."

Santilli, Bundy, Payne and all seven suspects arrested in Oregon on Tuesday appeared in court Wednesday in Portland. They each pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.

They were ordered to remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing Friday. Bundy, through his attorney, asked the remaining refuge occupiers to "please stand down" and "go home and hug your families."

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