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Oregon refuge protester arrested after threats against U.S. officers
March 18, 2016 / 9:49 PM / 2 years ago

Oregon refuge protester arrested after threats against U.S. officers

(Reuters) - A man who took part in January’s armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has been arrested after threatening to kill federal agents investigating the six-week-long standoff, a county prosecutor said on Friday.

Oregon State Troopers pass through a roadblock near the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Oregon January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Scott Willingham, 49, phoned the 911 emergency line on Wednesday, saying he would shoot investigators if local officials did not come to arrest him first, Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter said.

“His demand was that if he was not taken into custody then the next morning at 8 a.m. he would begin shooting federal law enforcement agents,” said Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter. “He was in a position to carry out his threat.”

Willingham was among the armed protesters who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from Jan. 2 over grazing and other rights to use federally owned land in the U.S. West.

His case will go before a Grant County grand jury in coming days, Carpenter said.

A sheriff’s deputy arrested Willingham on Wednesday evening at a motel in the tiny eastern Oregon city of Mount Vernon, about two hours’ drive north of Malheur, Carpenter said.

Willingham brought the deputy to a closet where he had an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle with 230 rounds of .308-caliber ammunition, Carpenter said.

He was arraigned Thursday on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and disorderly conduct. At the hearing, Willingham said he wanted to be jailed while he awaited arrest by federal authorities “coming to get him,” Carpenter said.

An attorney for Willingham could not immediately be reached.

Carpenter said he believed that Willingham’s threats were an attempt to elevate his stature with protest leader Ammon Bundy and other sympathizers.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that Willingham, an unemployed musician from Colorado, left Malheur following the Jan. 26 fatal police shooting of occupation leader Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and the arrest of Bundy.

A preliminary hearing is set for March 23.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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