A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

And now, the loss of a life

Written January 26th, 2016 by Hasso Hering

We have to wait to find out exactly what happened, but so far the terse FBI announcement leaves a bad taste about the arrests of some of the protesters in Harney County and the killing of one of them.

The protesters of federal land policy were on their way to a community meeting in John Day, driving along what the map shows to be a lonely section of the Burns-John Day Highway. That’s where, 20 miles north of Burns at about 4:25 p.m., the FBI said, its agents and the Oregon State Police “began an enforcement action to bring into custody a number of individuals associated with the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. During that arrest there were shots fired.”

The passive voice — “shots were fired” — intentionally obscures who fired them, or why.

One of the targets of the “law enforcement action” ended up dead. Another was wounded, treated at a hospital and then arrested along with the five others taken into custody.

The FBI said they were charged with a federal felony: “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”

Through the three weeks of this action, the news from Harney County had been surprisingly peaceful. The sheriff had met with the protesters. He and others had urged them to go home. Instead they met with reporters and sought to gain support at public meetings.

Their prolonged presence at the refuge headquarters was unwanted and inconvenient. But did it prevent any important work from going on, in the middle of nowhere at the height of winter? Was anyone threatened with harm?

The protesters were armed. But so are lots of people, in Harney County and elsewhere. Every fall, people with rifles comb our forests looking for game. There are no alarming reports on TV about hundreds of “armed men and women” in the woods.

This group was protesting the unjust imprisonment of a father and son and the heavy-handed administration of federal rule over vast stretches of the West. Their occupation was doomed because its goals can be achieved only by political action. But it could and should have been allowed to wind down of its own accord, without any loss of life. (hh)

17 responses to “And now, the loss of a life”

  1. Tim Siddiqui says:

    Yes we need more information, did the protesters refuse orders from officer of law, did they point their weapons towards the
    officer, firing a shot is not necessary to get shot.

  2. tom cordier says:

    The feds never learn to listen to understand complaints and work with the folks and above all protect lives. Waco —Ruby Ridge–come to mind. Recent article in Time magazine suggested they listen and learn from those episodes to avoid killing. They never learn to embrace their motto–protect and serve.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Let’s get this straight Tom, because you are once again misleading people by talking about stuff you do not bother to check out.


      1992 Ruby Ridge, ID – 1 FBI and 2 Weavers Killed. FBI prosecuted the chief of the Bureau’s Violent crimes unit for a criminal cover-up for destroying documentation critical of the FBI actions. Director of FBI said it was a terribly flawed operation.

      1993 Waco, Tx – 4 ATF agents and 6 Branch Dividians killed in an initial raid by the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms. 51 day siege ensued. Military tear gas used. Davidians started fires and also shot each other. FBI fired no shots at the compound. ATF was critical of the way they did the initial raid.

      1996 Jordan, MT – Montana Freeman hole up for 81 days. No shots fired and resulted in a surrender. FBI adopted the approach of few news conference to try and keep tensions down.

      2014 Bunkerville, NV – Cliven Bundy and about 50 supporters drove off BLM works there to enforce a court order for non-payment of over $1 million in fees not-paid for over a decade. No shots fired , court decree still stands.

  3. Oldtimer says:

    The man killed always appeared to be calm and non-threatening. He was the last I expected to do anything to spark a situation. This is an area cell phone captures could not be sent out. If the feds have good clear capture of the event good. If they do not I firmly believe they concocted the event. Every officer in such a situation should have his own body camera. It does not help the Hammond’s. It does not help the government. If you have ever been to Frenchglenn, you would not understand the BLM burning so close in windy conditions. Had the Hammonds not burned small patches of weeds, the BLM could charge them with endangering federal land. I hope there is clear video of what this man did to threaten the officer/officers that killed him.

  4. Bob Woods says:

    “The passive voice — “shots were fired” — intentionally obscures who fired them, or why.”

    Interesting how you, Mr. Editor, can ascertain and proclaim “intent” by merely reading an FBI press release, one that was issued from Portland and not at the scene of the activity. Not to mention the fact that it was literally during the initial hours of an active investigation.


    In relation to these armed seditionists occupying public property you say “Was anyone threatened with harm?” You are either disingenuous and pandering to the most extreme elements of this nation, or losing touch with reality. If a group of armed people marched into your house and said that they were prepared to defend themselves to the death if the cops tried to kick them out, that’s not threatening?

    You are out of touch with reality. The following shows that even more clearly.

    “Every fall, people with rifles comb our forests looking for game. There are no alarming reports on TV about hundreds of “armed men and women” in the woods.”

    To equate armed insurrectionists issuing statements that they are prepared to use violence against law enforcement with hunters in the woods is nothing short of sick.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Said like a true Pekingese nipping at the heels of a Great Dane!

    • Al Nyman says:

      How did you feel about Occupy Wall Street. That was OK when they blocked sidewalks, streets, crapped everywhere in Portland but somehow the flaming libs in the Oregon government weren’t bothered by them. Explain the difference in the response rationally Bob.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Occupy Wall Street and the Portland bridge-hangers NEVER were armed, and NEVER threatened to kill law enforcement officers or anyone else like the Bundy vigilantes did.. Threatening to kill is flat-out unacceptable everywhere in this great country.

        People practicing non-violent civil disobedience are regularly cited, processed, tried and convicted, and they pay their fine or serve the crime. They don’t threaten to kill people.

        • Hasso Hering says:

          Actually, no outsider can possibly know whether Occupy protesters in Portland were armed. As for the Malheur group, the published reports and videos I saw included no threats to kill anyone. In his last interview, on OPB, the rancher who was killed reiterated being trained since boyhood never to point a gun at anyone, and he urged the authorities not to do so either. (hh)

          • Bob Woods says:

            “An age is called Dark, not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it.” ― James A. Michener

            Perhaps you should read more. This is from the first 2 days of the insurrection:

            The Oregonian Jan 2 – “…In phone interviews from inside the occupied building Saturday night, Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan Bundy, said they are not looking to hurt anyone. But they would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them, they said.”’…

            “Neither man would say how many people are in the building or whether they are armed. Ryan Bundy said there were no hostages, but the group is demanding that the Hammonds be released and the federal government relinquish control of the Malheur National Forest.

            He said many would be willing to fight — and die, if necessary — to defend what they see as constitutionally protected rights for states, counties and individuals to manage local lands.”….

            “Among those joining Bundy in the occupation are Ryan Payne, U.S. Army veteran, and Blaine Cooper. Payne has claimed to have helped organize militia snipers to target federal agents in a standoff last year in Nevada. He told one news organization the federal agents would have been killed had they made the wrong move.

            He has been a steady presence in Burns in recent weeks, questioning people who were critical of the militia’s presence. He typically had a holstered sidearm as he moved around the community.

            At a community meeting in Burns Friday, Payne disavowed any ill intent.
            “The agenda is to uphold the Constitution. That’s all,” he said.

            Cooper, another militia leader, said at that meeting he participated in the Bundy standoff in Nevada.

            “I went there to defend Cliven with my life,” Cooper said.”

            The Guardian Jan 3 – “One of the occupiers, Ryan Payne, said by telephone that they did not intend to resort to violence, but that when local and federal authorities arrived “whatever else is going to happen will happen”. The men had faith in God and intended to uphold the constitution, he said.”

            NBC Today Show Jan 4 – “Ammon Bundy, the leader of armed protesters who have taken over a federal building in rural Oregon, told TODAY Monday that the group has no intention of committing violence unless the government intervenes.”

            CNN Jan 4 – “We will be here as long as it takes,” protest spokesman Ammon Bundy told CNN by phone from inside the refuge.

            “We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, (but) if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”

            Washington Post Jan 4 – Quoting Harnery County Sheriff David Ward: ““These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers,” Ward said in a statement Sunday. “When in reality these men had alternative motives, to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”

            Huffington Post Jan 4 – ““We are not hurting anybody or damaging any property. We would expect that they understand that we have given them no reason to use lethal force upon us or any other force,” Ammon Bundy told reporters on Sunday.

            But if the feds “try to come and force that issue,” he added, “then they make it about a building and facility and lives could be lost because of that.”

            The Oregonian’s Ian Kullgren tweeted early Sunday that he’d “talked to [militiaman] Ryan Bundy on the phone,” and that Bundy “said they’re willing to kill and be killed if necessary.”

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    There were many days of basically nothing happening, yet the news media kept acting like this was a major event, with it being the opening story on the network news.
    If they weren’t there, stoking the fire, the protesters would have gotten bored and left on their own.
    I expect that Obama will step in in the next day or 2 with another of his BS “missives”.

  6. GregB says:

    This group people running around with guns in a threatening manner did absolutely nothing good for those that want to keep their guns per the 2nd amendment. Just watch what is likely to happen now with the political ammo these guys gave the left wing. I do not disagree with some of the things the Bundy’s were protesting, i.e. the persecution of the Hammonds, but they went too far with their protest.

  7. Bill Kapaun says:

    Ironic they are keeping the news media out now.
    Just the OPPOSITE of what was happening.
    Is there any way to make it look more like a cover up than that?

  8. centrist says:

    This was an undeveloped situation. The 4th estate likely was present to try and catch a scoop.
    I’d say that the law enforcement strategy of seemingly doing nothing paid off. The quarry moved to an exposed place and got rounded up. Likely the tactical planning didn’t include having the quiet man run.
    Meanwhile Sheriff Ward is taking things very hard. Honorable man who deserves support in his crisis.

  9. Jim Engel says:

    Why leave a reply? Seems the know-it-all’s but weren’t there have said their piece above! JE

  10. centrist says:

    Not that it makes much difference right now, after the video release, but let’s all take a breath and acknowledge that a man has died. Doesn’t make any difference if we agreed with his position, or philosophy, or even his story


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