Sheriff: ‘I had hoped’ Ammon Bundy would be arrested

Judge tossed federal firearms charge against Shawna Cox on Monday

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward testified in the Malheur occupation case, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward testified in the Malheur occupation case, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said he had hoped Ammon Bundy would be arrested before federal agents and Oregon State Police apprehended him and other occupiers on January 26.

Sheriff Ward, who previously testified he wanted a peaceful ending to the standoff, was called to the witness stand once again Monday, this time by the defense.

Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford played audio clips from a meeting on November 19, during which Bundy called on the sheriff to stand with the Hammonds or “stand with the system that abused them.”

Full coverage: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff

“Find out what is really going on, what these people are about,” Bundy advised the sheriff. “You only have a week to say, ‘I’m standing with the Hammonds or not. If you do not make a decision, you’re hurting [them] further.'”

Bundy said “tens of thousands of people” would protect the Hammonds if Sheriff Ward chose to do otherwise. “We’re not bluffing,” Bundy said in the recording.

Community protests as ranching family heads to prison

Sheriff Ward told the jury Bundy made false statements to the public via social media regarding the sheriff’s position on whether federal authorities should collect Dwight and Steve Hammond before January 4, the day they turned themselves in.

Attorney Marcus Mumford and his client Ammon Bundy in US federal court during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge trial, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Attorney Marcus Mumford and his client Ammon Bundy in US federal court during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge trial, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

Sheriff Ward said he explicitly opposed the idea of taking the Hammonds into custody before giving them a chance to report to prison on their own free will.

Based on the false posts online, Sheriff Ward said he no longer felt Bundy was uninformed, he was “just not telling the truth.”

Meanwhile, Bundy sent emails to supporters about his mistrust in the sheriff for refusing to stand by the local ranching family.

Some of the defendants in the trial of 7 people accused of occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Some of the defendants in the trial of 7 people accused of occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

“Unfortunately, Sheriff David Ward has fallen to influences of federal agents and has taken an adverse position against the Hammonds,” Bundy wrote. “When you have an officer of the law that… allows fear to drive him, the people are negatively affected.”

In an email to the sheriff on December 18, Bundy called on him to “turn [his] weapons in the defense of the Hammonds’ rights and truly be a representative of the people.”

Sheriff Ward said those statements were based on Bundy’s false belief he had called for more armed law enforcement in Burns in response to anonymous threats.

“I am not going to agree that this is true,” the sheriff said in court.

Jurors also heard audio of Bundy saying he believed he could “speak for the American people” by claiming the Hammonds were abused by the government.

“The fact is the Hammonds are not terrorists. They do not deserve what they’ve been dealt,” Bundy said. “We are sitting in this room, not because we are the aggressors… we are here because of what [the federal government] is doing to us.”

Brand Thornton testified for the defense in the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Brand Nu Thornton testified for the defense in the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

Bundy and 6 other defendants are charged with conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work at the refuge through threats, intimidation or force.

Nevada resident Brand Nu Thornton, who blew a shofar to break up disagreements on the refuge, testified the group had a plan if U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees came on site during the occupation.

“Get out of their way, let them work,” he said occupiers were instructed to do.

Burns resident Pat Horlacher, who also testified Monday, described the wildlife refuge as having a peaceful “laid-back” environment during the occupation, a stark contrast to what he saw as an over-the-top police presence in town.

“The only thing I could compare it to was a scene out of ‘Red Dawn,'” Horlacher said in reference to the 1984 movie in which Soviet soldiers invade a small Colorado town.

Pat Horlacher testified for the defense in the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Pat Horlacher testified for the defense in the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

He was among several witnesses who provided a different view than the government of what took place during the 41-day standoff last winter.

Earlier in the day, Judge Anna J. Brown dismissed a federal firearms charge against Shawna Cox after giving prosecutors the weekend to provide more evidence against her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told Judge Brown he regarded Cox as someone who aided and abetted the possession of firearms. But the judge said the government needed to provide more specific proof if she were to uphold the charge.

The judge spoke with Bundy at the conclusion of Monday’s court session and asked if he was aware of his rights in preparation for his testimony Tuesday morning.

Bundy explained he felt he had no choice but to testify in the case.

“I am certain the jury is confused as to why we were in Harney County… what we did [while we were there] and how the government removed us,” Bundy told Judge Brown. “I have no other choice but to take the stand.”

Bundy said he was “excited” to discuss his involvement in the 2014 armed standoff outside his father’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, and said he was aware his testimony could be used in the case against him that is currently pending in Nevada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report