Recap and trial prep: The Malheur Refuge occupation

Jury selection begins September 7, opening statements expected September 13

Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks to reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after meeting with Harney County Sheriff David Ward Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Ammon Bundy speaks to reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after meeting with Harney County Sheriff David Ward Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been over 9 months since armed protesters took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, an event that led to the death of Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum and the arrests of dozens of others.

With jury selection starting September 7 in the federal cases of 7 occupiers, KOIN 6 News has a look back at memorable moments from the takeover.

Anti-government activists protest as ranching family heads to prison

Many leaders of the militia group behind the Malheur takeover came to Burns for a march on January 2 in support of local ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond.

The father and son convicted of arson had already served time, but a judge ruled their terms were too short under federal law and ordered them back to prison.

About 100 protesters gathered at the Safeway parking lot in Burns, Oregon in a rally over 2 men convicted of arson on federal lands, Jan. 2, 2016 (via YouTube stream)
About 100 protesters gathered at the Safeway parking lot in Burns, Oregon in a rally over 2 men convicted of arson on federal lands, Jan. 2, 2016. (YouTube)

The Hammonds’ new sentences touched a nerve with far right groups who repudiate federal authority.

Among those who traveled to Burns were Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

“If what is happening to the Hammonds is allowed, it will set a standard of what these powerful people will do to all of us,” Ammon Bundy wrote in an email, referring to the federal government.

But the Hammonds’ lawyer said the family didn’t welcome the Bundys help. While some community members joined in the march, others felt it was too much.

“I don’t think all of these outsiders coming here is necessary,” Burns resident Kainan Jordan previously said. “I think they intimidate the local people.”

Militia occupies Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building

A militia took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hours after protesters marched through the streets of Burns in support of Dwight and Steve Hammond.

Armed occupiers covered the refuge’s sign with an American flag.

A militia overtook the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the prison sentence handed to 2 Oregon ranchers for arson on federal land, Jan. 2, 2016 (KOIN)
A militia overtook the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the prison sentence handed to 2 Oregon ranchers for arson on federal land, Jan. 2, 2016. (KOIN)

When asked why they were occupying the refuge, one man said, “The Constitution, man. That’s what we’re up here for.”

Ammon Bundy said his group planned to stay at the refuge indefinitely.

“We’re planning on staying here for years,” he said. “This is not a last minute decision.”

He argued that the federal government expanded refuge land at the expense of local ranchers like the Hammonds.

“The people have been abused long enough,” Ammon Bundy said.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward addresses occupiers for first time

Two days after occupiers took over the refuge, Sheriff David Ward called for help from local law enforcement agencies to help protect citizens of the county.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward, left, speaks as Judge Steven Grasty looks on during a news conference Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Harney County Sheriff David Ward, left, speaks as Judge Steven Grasty looks on during a news conference Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“I want to directly address the people at the wildlife refuge: You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed and unlawful protest. The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It is time for you to leave our community. Go home, be with your own families and end this peacefully.” – Harney County Sheriff David Ward

Malheur militants announce ‘vague’ plan to hand over federal land

On day 4, Ammon Bundy said his group wanted the federal government to hand over control of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to local, county and state governments.

The group claimed wildlife refuges are not available for federal oversight.

LaVoy Finicum told members of the media “a lot of good things [were] happening,” at the refuge and spoke vaguely about a plan to keep the government in check.

Burns Paiute Tribe: ‘Armed protesters don’t belong here’

Tribal Chair Charlotte Rodrique says, "It's not about having possession of something, it's knowing it's there. It's protected, it's safe and that's our history." (KOIN)
Tribal Chair Charlotte Rodrique says, “It’s not about having possession of something, it’s knowing it’s there. It’s protected, it’s safe and that’s our history.” (KOIN)

At a press conference, Burns Paiute Tribal Chair Charlotte Rodrique called for the group of armed protesters to leave the land, which she said rightfully belongs to Native Americans.

“We never gave up our aboriginal rights to the territory, so we as a tribe actually view this as our land, no matter who is living on it,” she said. “We were here first and just want to set the facts straight.”

Rodrique said it was the government’s responsibility to protect native people’s land.

Idaho Three Percenters show up at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Members of a group called 3% of Idaho, which says it is committed to the defense of the constitution, arrived at the refuge about a week into the standoff.

People arrived in more than a dozen cars for “security considerations.”

A man standing guard pushes a videographer aside after members of the "3% of Idaho" group along with several other organizations arrived at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A man standing guard pushes a videographer aside after members of the “3% of Idaho” group along with several other organizations arrived at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“We’re here to establish a security buffer between the gentlemen here at the refuge, the community, citizens and law enforcement,” Brandon Curtiss said.

The group left just a few hours after delivering ‘articles of resolution’.

Militia says they accessed government files; begins taking down fences

Ammon Bundy said the group accessed files to expose the government and prove the Bureau of Land Management was behind the fires on the Hammonds’ land.

An armed group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took down a fence Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (KOIN)
An armed group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took down a fence Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (KOIN)

Sources told KOIN 6 News the data breach led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ask some of its employees to relocate from their homes until the situation was resolved.

The group was believed to have accessed employees’ personal information.

Concerns for employees’ safety were heightened after militia members were accused of driving slowly past employees’ homes and watching them. Others said militants confronted them while grocery shopping or running errands.

Watch: Malheur militia shows off hate mail

Around the same time, a convoy of cars began removing fences at the refuge.

“Removing fences, damaging any Refuge property, or unauthorized use of equipment would be additional unlawful actions by the illegal occupiers. Any movement of cattle onto the Refuge or other activities that are not specifically authorized by USFWS constitutes trespassing.” – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Militia intercepted on way to community meeting; 8 arrested, 1 killed

LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed and militia leaders were arrested on January 26 after the FBI and Oregon State Police intercepted them along Highway 395.

Aerial video provided by the FBI shows LaVoy Finicum being shot on January 26, 2016. (FBI)
Aerial video provided by the FBI shows LaVoy Finicum being shot on January 26, 2016. (FBI)

The FBI and OSP arrested: Ammon Bundy, 40, from Emmett, Idaho; Ryan Bundy, 43, from Bunkerville, Nevada; Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada; Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana.

Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona was arrested in Burns. Right-wing talk show host Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati was also arrested.

Each person was charged with felony conspiracy to impede U.S. officers from “discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”

Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, turned himself over to FBI agents in Phoenix, Arizona. He was arrested without incident on a federal charge related to the refuge occupation.

This combination of photos provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows eight people involved in the occupation of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon on Jan. 2, 2016, who were arrested on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Top row from left are Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier and Shawna Cox. Bottom row from left are Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Eric Ritzheimer and Peter Santilli. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Top row from left are Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier and Shawna Cox. Bottom row from left are Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Eric Ritzheimer and Peter Santilli. (Multnomah/Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

‘Hallelujah!’: Occupation of Malheur Wildlife Refuge ends

The end of the takeover played out on the Internet as a YouTube livestream showed the FBI surrounding the refuge and negotiating with the last 4 occupiers.

Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore arrived in Burns with Christian evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham. The FBI escorted them to the refuge to assist with the surrender.

Sean Anderson, 47, Sandy Anderson, 48, and Jeff Banta, 46, surrendered to federal officials. But David Fry refused to surrender “unless [his] grievances [were] heard.”

Finally, after asking that everyone shout “Hallelujah!” Fry surrendered on February 11.

Occupiers Sandra Anderson, Sean Anderson, David Fry and Jeffrey Banta shown in jail booking photos, February 11, 2016. (MCSO)
Occupiers Sandra Anderson, Sean Anderson, David Fry and Jeffrey Banta shown in jail booking photos, February 11, 2016. (MCSO)

Nine more people in 6 states were charged in connection with the armed occupation:

They include: Blaine Cooper of Arizona; Wesley Kjar of Utah; Corey Lequieu of Nevada; Neil Wampler of California, Jason Blomgren of North Carolina, and Darryl Thorn and Eric Flores, both of Washington state.

Sixteen of the 25 suspects arrested in connection with the refuge takeover pleaded not guilty February 24 during their appearances in federal court.

Additional charges filed against Bundy brothers, other militia members

Feds drop charges against Pete Santilli in Malheur case

Just one day before he was set to stand trial for his role in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeove, prosecutors dropped all Oregon charges against Pete Santilli.

The 7 people standing trial beginning September 7:

(L-R, top to bottom) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Jeff Banta, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, David Fry and Shawna Cox. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
(L-R, top to bottom) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Jeff Banta, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, David Fry and Shawna Cox. (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

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