Federal prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against 25 people, including Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, who come from 10 states
The rightwing occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge unravelled after police arrested protest leader Ammon Bundy and four other key members of the anti-government militia.
On the 41st day of the standoff, the final four occupiers surrendered , and federal prosecutors announced that they had filed felony charges against a total of 25 people associated with the armed occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge.
The group of 23 men and two women – who are all facing the same federal charge of conspiracy to impede officers through “ force, intimidation and threats ” – hail from ten states across the US and have a wide range of prior involvement in conservative activism and criminal activity. From a convicted murderer to a shock-jock radio host to several key figures in the anti-government movement in the west, here are the 25 facing criminal prosecution – plus details on the ones who got away.
Ammon Bundy, 40, Emmett, Idaho
Ammon Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy , whose 2014 standoff with the federal government paved the way for the Oregon occupation. Ammon immediately emerged as the leader of the Malheur group when the standoff began 2 January , arguing in speeches from the refuge that the federal government had no authority to control public lands in rural Harney County.
He was arrested on a highway outside of the occupation on 26 January and remains in jail in Portland , but he continues to release statements defending his actions as a constitutionally protected protest against government overreach.
Ryan Bundy, 43, Bunkerville, Nevada
Ryan Bundy is Ammon’s older brother and was also present at the occupation from the start. He was a less prominent public figure than his brother, but appeared to play a major role in planning and organizing protest actions – at one point travelling outside of the refuge to recruit other supporters and helping destroy part of a government fence to protest federal restrictions on cattle grazing.
He was taken into custody during the same police confrontation that resulted in his brother’s arrest, and he was in the car driven by protest spokesman LaVoy Finicum , whom police shot and killed .
Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah
Shawna Cox, one of two women facing charges in the federal government’s conspiracy case, was also in the car with Finicum and Ryan Bundy before she was arrested 26 January. Cox, a close family friend of the Bundys , frequently acted as a spokeswoman for the occupation. She is a mother of 12 and one of the few defendants officials have released on house arrest as the case moves forward.
Ryan Payne, 31, Anaconda, Montana
Ryan Payne was another high-profile militia leader, who was arrested after he reportedly exited Finicum’s truck and surrendered just before the fatal shooting. He had helped coordinate community meetings outside of the refuge. Payne was also very active in Cliven Bundy’s standoff in 2014.
After his arrest last month, Payne “claimed to have an absolute duty to prevent the federal government from continuing to manage lands … [and] claimed a right to use force to oppose an unlawful arrest”, according to court records.
Brian Cavalier, 44, Bunkerville, Nevada
Brian Cavalier, who often goes by the name “Booda”, was the fifth person arrested in the highway confrontation. When the Guardian visited Cliven Bundy last year , Cavalier described himself as the family’s bodyguard and said he was willing to do whatever was necessary to protect the Bundys if federal officials returned.
Pete Santilli, 50, Cincinnati, Ohio
Pete Santilli, a rightwing radio host and vocal defender of the Bundys, was the first to report that Ammon Bundy may have been arrested. He delivered the news live on his YouTube stream, which he had used throughout the occupation. Soon after Bundy was arrested that evening, Santilli himself was taken into custody on the same conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors allege that Santilli participated in the protests, but his attorneys and civil liberties advocates argue that he was a journalist with free speech rights .
Joseph O’Shaughnessy, 45, Cottonwood, Arizona
In a separate arrest the night of 26 January, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, another regular presence at the refuge, was also taken into custody. He told the Guardian during the first week of the occupation that he was with a group called the North American Coalition of Constitutional Militias and that he was acting as a neutral party aimed at preventing violence.
Prosecutors have used social media videos to argue that he was directly involved in the occupation, citing one video in which he states: “We need every patriot in this country to come out here and and support the message.”
Jon Ritzheimer, 32, Peoria, Arizona
The final arrest on the first night police took militia leaders into custody was of Jon Ritzheimer, a key militia leader who was home in Arizona and allegedly turned himself in to his local police department . Ritzheimer, a prominent anti-Islam activist , often stood guard at the entrance to the refuge, but was most known for his bizarre Facebook video rant about donated dildos .
He posted a Facebook video of his daughters crying before he turned himself in.
Duane Ehmer, 45, Irrigon, Oregon
Duane Ehmer, one of the few occupiers from Oregon, was arrested at an FBI checkpoint one day after the Bundy brothers were taken in. Ehmer was one of the most frequently photographed protesters at the refuge, often seen riding his horse Hellboy while carrying a large American flag.
“These guys are just normal, everyday people,” he told the Guardian during the first week of the occupation. Ehmer was also one of the few released while awaiting trial. After his arrest, his horse was “ held in a safe location ”.
Jason Patrick, 43, Bonaire, Georgia
In the chaotic day after the arrest of the Bundy brothers and death of Finicum, Jason Patrick, a regular presence at the occupation, briefly emerged as the militia’s new de facto leader . The role, however, was short lived. Like Ehmer, Patrick was arrested at an FBI checkpoint while leaving the refuge. At the start of the occupation, he offered journalists guided tours of the refuge .
Patrick also faced charges in August 2014 of “making terrorist threats” after he “threatened to kill everyone” inside a municipal court building in Georgia, according to prosecutors .
Dylan Anderson, 34, Provo, Utah
Dylan Anderson was also arrested one day after Finicum was killed. Prosecutors say he was also known by his nickname “Captain Moroni” – a reference to a military leader in the Book of Mormon . He was at the refuge from the start of the occupation, according to prosecutors.
Kenneth Medenbach, 62, Crescent, Oregon
Kenneth Medenbach was added to prosecutors’ conspiracy case when a federal grand jury issued a formal indictment . His claim to fame, however, came two weeks earlier when he was arrested while driving a stolen government vehicle outside of the refuge and into the local town of Burns.
Jeff Banta, 46, Yerington, Nevada
Jeff Banta was one of the final four occupiers who refused to leave for two weeks after the rest of the militia members surrendered, were arrested or escaped without consequence. Banta and the three other holdouts were indicted by a federal grand jury in the conspiracy case before they ultimately surrendered.
Sandra Anderson, 48, Riggins, Idaho
Sandra Anderson was thrust into the national spotlight during the final 24 hours of the standoff as she refused to surrender and made bold statements during live-streamed phone calls as the FBI closed in on the holdouts . “Please don’t let us die in vain,” she shouted on the YouTube stream broadcast to tens of thousands of people. She eventually surrendered without incident and appeared in court in tears the following day .
Sean Anderson, 47, Riggins, Idaho
Sean Anderson is Sandra’s husband and another final holdout whose dramatic comments received widespread attention in the final hours of the occupation. “We are not surrendering, we’re turning ourselves in,” he said at one point during a live-streamed phone call . He eventually walked out holding an American flag.
David Fry, 27, Blanchester, Ohio
David Fry was the final occupier at the refuge, and after the three other holdouts surrendered, he initially refused to stand down during tense negotiations that were broadcast live on YouTube. He repeated his claims that he was willing to die for his anti-government protests and also noted that he was having suicidal thoughts, sparking fears on the outside that the occupation would end with more bloodshed. After an hour of charged debate with mediators on the phone, he turned himself in.
Fry initially received media attention when he filmed himself using the federal government’s computers at the refuge .
Blaine Cooper, 36, Humboldt, Arizona
Blaine Cooper was a very outspoken militia leader at the start of the occupation, but disappeared from public view in its final weeks. Cooper reappeared when he showed up for the recent funeral of Finicum in Utah. When a reporter asked him why he had not been arrested or indicted, he responded: “Lucky, maybe.”
Cooper’s luck ended on the final day of the occupation when he was arrested in Utah – as one of nine additional people charged as the standoff came to a close. Cooper was previously present at confrontations with the government at the Nevada Bundy ranch and Sugar Pine mine in Oregon early in 2015.
Neil Wampler, 68, Los Osos, California
Neil Wampler, a retired woodworker, was at the occupation from the beginning and told the Guardian that he was also present at Cliven Bundy’s standoff . Wampler became less friendly with reporters after the Oregonian reported that he was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of his father in 1977. The paper reported that Wampler was armed at the refuge and was barred from possessing firearms due to the murder conviction.
Corey Lequieu, 44, Fallon, Nevada
Corey Lequieu, who was at the refuge from the beginning, told the Guardian in a recent phone interview that he left just after Finicum died. Though he managed to leave the occupation without being arrested, officials later apprehended him in Nevada.
At the refuge, it appeared that Lequieu was frequently involved in the group’s “security” team. In an earlier interview at the standoff, he said he would not be surprised if the occupation dragged on for months, saying, “This isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Jason Blomgren, 41, Murphy, North Carolina
Little is known about Jason Blomgren, who appears to have stayed out of the news for the occupation. Notably, it appears he was arrested in Bunkerville , Nevada, which is where the Bundy ranch is located.
Darryl Thorn, 31, of Marysville, Washington
Occupation member Darryl Thorn also appears to have skirted attention until his arrest on the final day of the standoff. He was reportedly arrested in Bend, Oregon.
Eric Flores, 22, Tulalip, Washington
Eric Flores was arrested in his hometown of Tulalip, Washington on the last day of the standoff. He appears to be the youngest person charged in the federal conspiracy case.
Wesley Kjar, 32, Manti, Utah
Wesley Kjar was another individual added to the federal case at the end of the occupation. He appeared in federal court in Salt Lake City .
Geoffrey Stanek, 26, Lafayette, Oregon
Geoffrey Stanek was one of the last of the 25 to be arrested. When officials announced the nine new indictments on the final day of the standoff, prosecutors initially redacted his name, because he was still at large. He was arrested near Portland the following evening .
Stanek spoke to the Guardian during the first week of the occupation, saying he had arrived with friends. “I really strongly believe in what we’re doing,” he said, adding: “It’s really good not just to give back to the community, but to open their eyes and say, ‘This is their land.’”
Officials revealed on Friday that the final occupier charged was Travis Cox, who is named in the latest indictment. As of late Friday, however, he had not yet been apprehended and no information was available about his identity.
The ones who got away
Despite the long list of people charged, some have pointed out that other known members of the occupation have avoided arrest and prosecution. Mel Bundy , another brother of Ammon and Ryan, was at the occupation at the beginning , but it appears that he left fairly early on. He has not been charged.
Notably, many of the most high-profile women of the militia – some of whom the Guardian interviewed in the first week of the standoff – are also not listed in the charges.
Melissa Cooper, wife of arrested militiaman Blaine Cooper, was one of the main cooks at the refuge headquarters. She wrote on Facebook that her husband was arrested and subsequently told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he was apprehended in front of their children, saying: “It was traumatic for them.”
It appears that there are also no charges against Debra Carter Pope, a 61-year-old Fallon, Nevada, resident who was one of the main cooks alongside Cooper. She is the fiancee of Lequieu. Reached by phone after his arrest, she declined to comment.
Oregon Public Broadcasting also wrote about the women of the occupation and interviewed another protester named Kristi Jernigan, who said she was not worried about being arrested: “God would not ask me to do something if he wasn’t going to protect me.”
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