AZ man facing federal charges for his part in OR armed occupatio - KPTV - FOX 12

AZ man facing federal charges for his part in OR armed occupation

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Jon Ritzheimer Jon Ritzheimer

An armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon ended in death and multiple arrests Tuesday night. A member of that group from right here in Arizona was Wednesday arraigned on federal charges.

Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine, has said he has a strong will to defend the Constitution at whatever cost. Apparently, that cost is his freedom.

Rod Valenzuela lives near Ritzheimer, who is one of the men at the center of a battle between the federal government and armed occupiers. 

"I didn't know he was involved with the people up in Oregon.," Valenzuela said. That was until we told him.

Ritzheimer, 32, had his first court appearance in front of a federal judge Wednesday for his part in the takeover of that Oregon wildlife refuge. Both in the courtroom and after the hearing, the mother of his two young daughters was very upset and said very little. 

"I have no comment," Ritzheimer's wife said as she quickly walked out of the federal courthouse.

However, people who live near him in Peoria said Ritzheimer's inflammatory statements have made them uncomfortable. 

"At one point in time, I think on the back of his truck he had F-, blah, blah, blah, Islam," Valenzuela described.

Ritzheimer has said groups like ISIS put out hits on his life. Those are threats his neighbors are fully aware of.

"Everything's always been kept down that way," Valenzuela said. "But there's still a security issue you're dealing with when you got people after you."

Valenzuela says about a week and a half ago it got really heated.

"Somebody was hearing a beeping noise coming out of the trash can for a couple days so somebody called it in," Valenzuela said. "They thought it was a bomb. The police were out here for about three hours."

It ended up being a toy. Valenzuela said Ritzheimer is toying with his family.

"I have a daughter, but I guess I wouldn't put myself in that position in the first place I guess," he said.

Ritzheimer will be held here in Arizona until a detention hearing next week. That's when the judge determines if he gets bail. Ultimately though, Ritzheimer will likely be extradited back to Oregon.

Before Ritzheimer traveled to Oregon to join that armed takeover he had already made a name for himself here in the Valley.

In late May, Ritzheimer held an anti-Islam-Muhammad cartoon drawing contest that coincided with an armed protest outside of the Phoenix Islamic Center. That stunt captured national attention.

Then in October, he joined another protest outside a Tempe high school following controversy over clothing colors at a football game.

Most recently, he caught the attention of the FBI in December after posting a video of himself armed and driving to New York to threaten a Muslim community.

Story written by: Jonathan Lowe (KPHO)

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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