Skittish Sheriff Turns Burns Into A Warzone
by Shari Dovale
The Malheur Protest Trial resumed this morning with a good day for the defense. They got a big win right off the bat when the gun charges were dismissed against Shawna Cox! The jury will not learn of this, however, until the final instructions before they deliberate.
Judge Anna Brown was not going to make the rest of the day easy, however, and shut down much of the defense witness testimonies calling them irrelevant or cumulative. It’s interesting that she let multiple FBI agents testify about the same issues yet when defense witnesses have testimony that overlaps each other, she shuts it all down.
BLM Agent Jeff Rose took the stand and testified that the BLM had a civil case against the Hammond Family. Testimony revealed that the Hammond’s had been fined $400,000 and the BLM also obtained a “Right of First Refusal” on their ranch, if they had to sell it to pay the fines. The Hammond patriarch’s are currently serving their second round of prison time for the same charge of arson/terrorism for protecting their ranch.
Rose reluctantly discussed how the BLM chose to close their office several days before the rally held in Burns on January 2, 2016. This was confirmed in an email the defense obtained. Again, it is confirmed that the government employees were sent home long before the Bundy’s held their rally or went to the Malheur Refuge. The employees were also allowed to work from home, or other offices, and never lost work or pay.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward took the stand again to discuss the meetings he held with Ammon and others in November. Ward was forced to admit that he had been feeding info to the FBI about anyone that showed support for the Bundy’s.
Ward was shown an email that he claimed was an ultimatum to him. The section that threatened Ward the most in that email reads:
We the people desire to live in peace and tranquility, but will defend out freedoms if necessary in order to do so. We call upon you, Sheriff Ward, and all civil servants, to honorably and effectively uphold the oaths and duties of your sworn offices. – To turn your weapons in the defense of the Hammonds rights and truly be a representative of the people, by the people and for the people.
Testimony showed that Sheriff Ward put the county on ‘High Alert’ with State and Federal officers, as well as deputies from 5 neighboring counties coming to his personal protection. Military equipment, heavily armored vehicles, locking down and barricading the courthouse and orders to use force upon the people if they saw fit, all because the Sheriff perceived a threat in an email, but could not show this threat.
The Sheriff over reacted for his own personal protection, yet he refused to protect the Hammond family when he was asked. He has effectively placed himself above the Hammonds and all the people of Harney County.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
― George Orwell,
Audio clips of a meeting held between Sheriff Ward and Ammon, as well as several others, were played and discussed. In these clips, no threats were made but Ammon explained well the argument that the BLM were never punished for starting accidental fires, unlike the Hammonds who were labeled as terrorists. Ward suggested that people could petition Congress if they wanted to fight this, but that is all he offered.
Other testimony today included residents of Burns and their Committee of Safety members. Kim Rollins testified that Sheriff Ward misled the residents when he held a townhall meeting to gather a straw poll vote from the residents against the Bundys. Rollins explained that Ward did not get the support from the residents that he testified to, and that residents wanted to hear what Ammon had to say.
Additionally, Rollins testified about a visit he made to the Malheur Refuge last summer. He had brought small children with him and the adults could not let the children walk through the museum due to the amount of rodent feces throughout. “Deplorable conditions” was how he described it.
Pat Horlacher was another resident from Burns. He testified that when the Refuge was first occupied he was afraid for his family. He tried to talk to the Sheriff but was not allowed to see him, as the courthouse was barricaded. He became concerned that he should move his family out of town. He described Burns like it had been invaded, or a scene out of the movie “Red Dawn’ due to the escalation of law enforcement.
Horlacher testified that the LEOs made him afraid, but he decided to go personally to the refuge and see what was happening. “It is happening in your own backyard,” he said. “You need to make your own decision.”
He traveled to the refuge and saw things were peaceful and calm. “It was as laid back an environment as you could ask for.” He testified that he never heard gunshots and saw very few weapons. Horlacher ended up making multiple visits to the refuge that month.
It is very obvious from the testimony that people were comfortable visiting the refuge and talking to the protesters. However, the town was turned into a war zone at the request of a skittish sheriff and a county judge with a large ego.