FBI: Bundy militant planned to kidnap law officer to exchange for prisoner friend
The FBI warned federal officials and local law enforcement that armed militants occupying an Oregon nature preserve may have been plotting to kidnap one of them to exchange for a jailed comrade.
An intelligence analyst in the bureau’s Portland office emailed other FBI agents and Harney County Sheriff David Ward and his staff of a threat involving Ryan Payne, one of the leaders of the armed standoff, reported E&E News.
The Jan. 6 email warned that Payne, who helped take over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with Ammon and Ryan Bundy, wanted to exchange the kidnapped law enforcement officer for a prisoner who was detained at the time in Seattle.
Federal authorities did not identify the prisoner, but Schuyler Barbeau — the former bodyguard for Cliven Bundy, the militants’ father whose own dispute with the government triggered a previous armed standoff with authorities — was jailed at the time in Washington State on weapons charges.
Barbeau, who claims to be a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, allegedly plotted to “lynch” lawmakers and “physically remove” a judge.
Despite the FBI’s warning, Ward carried out his promise to meet Jan. 7 with Ammon Bundy and Payne, a former U.S. Army veteran, on a roadside near the refuge, but there was no kidnapping attempt or altercation.
Video of that meeting has been used as evidence in the ongoing trial of Bundy and six other militants who took part in the armed takeover.
Payne has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to impede federal officials and will be sentenced in February.
He also faces charges for his actions in the 2014 armed standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada.
Payne’s attorney denied the kidnapping plot allegations.
“Mr. Payne believes strongly in freedom and defending the Constitution, but he does not and would never believe the conduct attributed to him in this report is an acceptable means of exercising his rights to redress a grievance against the government,” said his attorney, Lisa Hay, a federal public defender.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five others, are currently on trial in Portland, and jurors could begin deliberating charges against the armed militants as soon as this week.