A repeat of the Oregon standoff may be brewing, with the last suspect in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge still at large, and his supporters calling for allies to come to Montana to prevent his arrest, the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting.
Jake Ryan, 27, was one of several dozen armed militia members who occupied the Oregon wildlife sanctuary, beginning January 2 and ending 41 days later. Armed supporters of ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond, took over the government property and occupied it for weeks, creating an armed standoff with federal agents. The Hammonds had been charged with arson for burning brush on federal land — land that they maintained belonged to them and was theirs to do with as they pleased.
During the Oregon standoff, the protest became something of a focal point for the frustrations of some farmers, ranchers, and other residents of the West have with the federal government — particularly the Bureau of Land Management. During the occupation, protesters demanded that the charges against the Hammonds be dropped, and that the federal government give ownership of the refuge to the occupiers.
— KTVB.COM (@KTVB) February 12, 2016
Since the Oregon standoff ended, all of the occupiers have been arrested — all, that is, except Ryan.
Ryan has been charged with accused of conspiracy to impede U.S. officers, possessions of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, and depredation of government property, according to Raw Story, Specifically, he and an accomplice, Sean Anderson, are accused of digging a trench through a sacred Native American site belonging to the Burns Paiute Tribe.
As of this writing, Jake Ryan is still at large and is believed to be hiding out in the sparsely-populated Sanders County in northwestern Montana. His status as a wanted fugitive, and the fact that he has armed sympathizers, has got law enforcement worried that another standoff may be in the works, should anyone try to interfere in his arrest.
Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel, via his department’s Facebook page, has asked supporters to stay away and let law enforcement do their job.
“Since [last week] I have been in contact with the Ryan family and the FBI in order to work out a peaceful resolution to this situation… From the start of this, it has been my intention to make sure that Jake Ryan’s safety and rights are provided for, and I will continue to do just that. With that said, I want you to know that Federal Officers have not operated in this county without my knowledge. At this point in time, I have no evidence to suggest that Jake Ryan is in this county. At this time, I believe a peaceful resolution is being achieved and outside citizen involvement will not be needed.”
Being the sheriff of a county where a known anti-government operative may or may not be hiding out has put Rummel in an awkward position. Rummel is himself not a fan of the federal government, having supported Montana legislation — which ultimately failed — that would require any federal agent to get the permission of the local sheriff before making an arrest or conducting a search in that sheriff’s jurisdiction.
— Kathleen Hassan (@CowboyKate49) January 21, 2014
Meanwhile, Ryan supporters have taken to social media to call for support as the manhunt for Ryan intensifies. Oregon standoff defendant Shawna Cos, who is currently on house arrest while awaiting trial, posted on Facebook that Ryan’s family and supporters may be digging in for another standoff.
“If you would like to help please be on stand by or if you arrive in Plains be prepared to camp or have friends or relatives close by to reside with until called to duty. thanks. Don’t forget your cameras and cell phones.”
Meanwhile, Ryan’s family continues to insist that they do not know where the last fugitive wanted in connection with the Oregon standoff even is.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]