Prosecutor rebuffs pro-Bundy sheriff’s claims that troopers at Oregon refuge put both of them in danger
A county prosecutor who accompanied a pro-Bundy sheriff to a roadblock that was set up in response to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in January swatted down the sheriff’s claim the men were placed in harm’s way by law enforcement, the Oregonian reports.
Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter on Tuesday evening denied County Sheriff Glenn Palmer’s claim that the two were in danger as a result of local law enforcement dispatchers’ decision to withhold information about the death of one of the occupation leaders, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. Dispatchers with the city of John Day said they did so because they feared Palmer was harboring one of the militants in his car.
Roadblocks were set up and multiple occupation leaders — including Ammon Bundy — were arrested while they were en route to meet with Palmer.
Palmer had Carpenter with him, who had volunteered to go out to the roadblock — but didn’t identify his passenger to dispatchers.
“The actions of the city of John Day’s dispatchers knowingly and recklessly put Palmer and District Attorney Carpenter’s lives in danger,” Palmer’s attorneys tort claim says.
Not so, responded Carpenter. The prosecutor said he never felt threatened, adding he knows and trusts many of the state troopers he encountered at the roadblock.
“At no time did I perceive that I was in danger at the roadblock on Jan. 26,” Carpenter told the Oregonian. “Once I was identified, I was able to walk among [state troopers], ask questions, share information and talk freely with them. A few of them were from my local outpost and are my friends and associates. Others I had met through various cases we had worked together. I was never uncomfortable or threatened.”
There was one tense moment, when the officers were approached by Oregonian reporters with a camera tripod, and Palmer himself unracked his shotgun. But the tension subsided once the reporters identified themselves.
Carpenter says he will not be a part of Palmer’s lawsuit, and added that Palmer didn’t identify his passenger as Carpenter when radioing to dispatchers that he was en route.
The dispatcher later revealed discomfort with relaying information to Palmer, who was viewed as “untrustworthy.” Dispatch manager Valerie Luttrell is among public officials who have filed complaints against Palmer over his conduct.
Palmer is facing a criminal investigation in relation to the January occupation by right-extremist militants. The heavily-armed group viewed Palmer as a supporter, and before he was shot by law enforcement, Finicum repeatedly stated that he was on his way to meet with him.
Palmer had met before with the militants and had said “the government is going to have to concede something” to end the occupation, and suggested the release of Dwight and Steven Hammond, a father-son ranching duo serving prison terms for arson on public land, which sparked the protest. He also said the FBI, which had jurisdiction over law enforcement during the occupation, should be sent away.
Palmer is admired by right-wing militia groups and while he declined an invitation from the Bundy group to join their occupation, he also refused to help neighboring Harney Country Sheriff Dave Ward end it.
“About the only thing he really told me is I’m welcome to come down there if I would shame and humiliate them into giving up, and I said, ‘No, I won’t do that,’” Palmer said at the time. “I’m not in the business of denouncing or shaming or humiliating anybody.”