The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, December 28, 2016, Page A3, Image 3

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    Year in Review
Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
The occupation of the Malheur refuge
By Sean Hart
Blue Mountain Eagle
The occupation of the
Malheur National Wildlife
Refuge near Burns that began
Jan. 2 was by far the largest
news event of 2016, with re-
verberations throughout the
year and related stories that
have not yet concluded.
After a peaceful event pro-
testing the resentencing of
Burns ranchers Dwight and
Steven Hammond, some of
the protesters took over an
unoccupied federal bird ref-
uge facility in Harney County.
The Hammonds were con-
victed of arson for lighting
fires that burned onto feder-
al land, served their original
sentences of three months and
one year, respectively, and
were then ordered by another
judge to serve the full five-
year sentences mandated by
the federal laws under which
they were charged.
The armed occupiers —
including Ammon and Ryan
Bundy, who were involved in
a 2014 standoff over federal
grazing fees in Nevada with
their father, Cliven Bundy —
demanded the Hammonds’
new sentences be overturned.
Even after the Hammonds
turned themselves in to serve
their new prison sentences,
the occupiers remained at
the refuge for what would
become a 41-day standoff
with federal authorities. They
demanded not only the Ham-
monds’ release but also the
transfer of the refuge land to
local control.
Into Grant County
Grant County Sheriff
Glenn Palmer met with sev-
eral of the occupiers, in-
cluding Ryan Payne and Jon
Ritzheimer, at a lunch meet-
ing in John Day, according
to other attendees. He said he
was not aware they would be
there but followed them next
door after lunch to continue
Palmer said he believed
a positive outcome would
require the government to
concede to the occupiers’ de-
“I don’t think these guys
are going to give up without
knowing that they’ve done
something that benefits the
people of our country or our
region,” he told the Eagle.
Days later, Palmer met
with the president of 3% of
Idaho, Brandon Curtiss, who
said his group was provid-
Top Eagle
for 2016
Blue Mountain Eagle
EO Media Group/E.J. Harris
EO Media Group/E.J. Harris
Anti-occupation protesters hold signs during a town hall meeting at the
senior center Jan. 26 in John Day. A group of occupiers was supposed to
speak at the meeting, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, before the FBI
captured the brothers on Highway 395 outside of Burns.
ing a “security buffer detail,”
around the refuge.
Both Palmer and Curtiss
told the Eagle they had been
friends for more than a year
and the meeting was not re-
lated to the refuge occupation.
They both said they did not
believe the occupiers would
expand into Grant County.
“They won’t come here,”
Palmer said.
The John Day meeting
and the arrests
Canyon City resident Tad
Houpt organized a meeting in
John Day Jan. 26 and invited
Ryan Payne. He said he was
unsure if any of the other oc-
cupiers would attend, though
he invited Palmer to speak as
“What I’d like to get across
is how much power and au-
thority we have and how we
need to make some changes in
our government here,” Houpt
told the Eagle. “... The corrup-
tion, that’s what this meeting
is about — the blatant, unbe-
lievable corruption we have
in this county. It’s from local
government clean up to federal
government. Our state govern-
ment is probably even worse.”
At about the time the
meeting was set to begin, the
attendees learned the two ve-
hicles en route from the refuge
to John Day had been stopped
by the FBI and Oregon State
Police on Highway 395 north
of Burns.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy
were arrested along with sev-
eral others, and Robert LaVoy
Finicum was shot and killed
by Oregon State Police offi-
cers after he exited his vehicle
at a roadblock and officers said
he reached for a weapon. An
investigation by the Malheur
County district attorney con-
cluded the officers who shot
Finicum were justified, but
additional shots by FBI agents
that did not hit Finicum were
under further investigation.
Most of the occupiers left
the refuge soon after the lead-
ers were arrested. The last four
holdouts surrendered Feb. 11.
Complaints against Sheriff
At least eight people filed
complaints against Grant
County Sheriff Glenn Palmer
and his involvement with the
occupiers with the Oregon po-
lice licensing agency, which
forwarded them to the Depart-
ment of Justice, recommend-
ing further investigation.
The justice department
opened an investigation, which
has still not concluded.
The Oregonian requested
public records from Palmer
and later sued him to com-
pel their release. During the
course of the lawsuit, The
Oregonian obtained most of
the records it sought but also
raised concerns about records
being deleted. A judge granted
a temporary restraining order
preventing Palmer from delet-
ing any emails.
The case was dismissed
when the documents were
released, but the judge speci-
fied The Oregonian could still
seek attorney fees. The Orego-
nian submitted a request for
$78,000 in fees, and a hearing
on the matter is scheduled in
The trial
While several of the defen-
dants, including Ryan Payne,
pleaded guilty to conspiring to
Tad Houpt of Canyon
City breaks the news
to the audience that
the Bundys had been
arrested before the start
of the public meeting
where the brothers were
to speak in John Day.
prevent federal employees
from doing their jobs, most
pleaded not guilty and stood
trial. Some also faced firearms
and theft charges. One group
went to trial in 2016, and an-
other group is awaiting trial in
A jury found the defendants
in the first group not guilty on
all charges. One of the jurors
told The Oregonian the jury
acquitted because the federal
prosecutors failed to prove the
defendants intended to impede
the federal employees, which
was a necessary component
for the conspiracy charge.
While many of the defen-
dants were set free, Ammon
and Ryan Bundy remain in
custody, awaiting trial on
charges related to the 2014 Ne-
vada standoff along with their
father, who was arrested after
traveling to Oregon during the
The most-viewed article on the
Blue Mountain Eagle’s website
for 2016 was “Documents: OSP
moved fatal traffic stop to avoid
Grant County sheriff.”
The article, which shared in-
formation from documents re-
leased in the investigation into
the Jan. 26 shooting death of
Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, re-
ceived 26,651 views.
Top-viewed articles from 2016
by month were:
• January: “Watch the FBI vid-
eo of LaVoy Finicum shooting”
• February: “Sheriff’s associ-
ation asked to investigate Palm-
er’s conduct”
• March: “Documents: OSP
moved fatal traffic stop to avoid
Grant County sheriff”
• April: “Sheriff Palmer in-
tends to sue city of John Day,
• May: “State accuses DeR-
osier of attempted murder for
Thursday shootings”
• June: “Deputy declined assis-
tance, failed to record interview
when investigating complaint
against his family”
• July: “John Day man dies af-
ter falling from cliff”
• August: “Jury: Peterson
guilty on three felony charges”
• September: “Missing boy
found deceased”
• October: “The Dirty Shame
becomes the Ugly Truth”
• November: “Man rescued
from badger hole after fleeing
from police”
Read all of these articles and
many more at
Did you know a service-connected
disabled veteran is entitled to
FREE use of Oregon State Parks?
See your Grant County Veteran Services
Officer today for more information,
located at Grant County Courthouse.
Open Mon, Wed, & Fri, 10 am - 4 pm,
by appointment. Call 541-575-1631
The Blue
Mountain Eagle  
is now accepting food items
this year. We are accepting
cash donations. Please
drop off at the Blue
Mountain Eagle for the
Grant County Food Bank.
Accepting donations until
Dec. 30, 2016
R obbins Farm Equipment
3850 10th St.
Baker City
10218 Wallowa Lake Hwy.
La Grande
1160 S Egan
86812 Christmas Valley Hwy.
Christmas Valley