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Arrested Oregon militant has history of illegally occupying federal lands — and was recently released on one condition

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The first militant arrested by law enforcement in connection with the armed standoff on federal land in Oregon had been in federal custody and was released on one condition — don’t occupy federal land, the Oregonian reports.

Kenneth Medenbach, 62, was arrested Friday when he drove a federal vehicle to Safeway grocery store, on felony charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle. He’s being held on $10,000 bail. Medenbach was already facing federal charges of illegally camping on federal land. He was released on the condition he does not “occupy” federal land again.

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Medenbach and other right-wing militants, including members of the Bundy clan, took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge two weeks ago and have been engaged in a standoff with federal authorities since.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is grateful for the quick actions from law enforcement,” Megan Nagel, spokeswoman for the agency, which manages the refuge, said in a statement to the Oregonian. “We will continue to work with law enforcement to recover vehicles bought and paid for by the American people to care for their national wildlife refuge.”

The Oregonian’s Les Zaitz reports that Medenbach was accompanied to the store by a man driving another federal vehicle, but the second militant had already gone inside when police arrived. The group had covered the federal agency’s insignia on its vehicles with signs that say “Harney County Resource Center” — the name given the bird refuge by the occupiers.

Medenbach has a long history of illegally occupying federal land. Per the Oregonian:

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  • He was convicted in 1995 on federal charges of illegally camping at Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington. At that time he was kept in custody because he had no intention of staying away from the site. He also admitted to using intimidation and made references to Ruby Ridge and Waco, two deadly encounters between religious groups and federal agents. An appellate court ruling said he tried to “protect” his campsite with explosive ammonium sulfate, a pellet gun and what was believed to be a hand grenade with trip wires.
  • He tried to squat on federal land in southern Oregon — and some of proceedings from his case were handled by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan, who ruled ranchers Dwight Hammond, Jr. and his son Steven should serve lighter sentences than required for setting fire to public lands. The Hammond case is cited as the grievance that led to the occupation of Malheur, with militants saying the federal government violated the ranchers’ rights when a judge ordered them to serve longer terms as required by law.

Also on Friday, another man with ties to the Bundy clan was arrested on a warrant in Arizona. E&E Publishing reports that Brian “Booda” Cavalier, who identified himself to reporters as “Fluffy Unicorn” at the Malheur standoff, was taken into custody when police pulled over a “suspicious vehicle” he was riding in.

If convicted on current charges, Medenbach could face five years in prison. It’s unclear if the arrest signals a change in tactics by authorities who have thus far taken a low profile approach.

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