A remarkable video shot in the darkened bunkhouse kitchen of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge reveals the chaos and anger that erupted after the arrests of occupation leaders and the fatal shooting of the armed takeover's spokesman.
Defendant Jason Patrick, who went by the code name "Clooney,'' radioed to security teams to come to the bunkhouse for a vote the night of Jan. 26, 2016. He stood in the kitchen in the middle of a group already gathered around him, wearing his trademark blue blazer and holding a lit cigarette in his hand.
"All posts report to chow hall,'' Patrick directed.
Someone out of view can be heard advocating for armed guerilla warfare. Another suggested staying at the refuge and regrouping.
Prosecutors played the 12-minute clip, obtained from Patrick's video camera, for jurors at the end of the day Thursday in the second Oregon standoff trial. Patrick and three co-defendants, Darryl Thorn, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer, are charged with conspiring to impede federal employees from carrying out their work at the refuge in eastern Oregon last winter.
As the bickering continued in the kitchen that night over whether to stay or leave the refuge, occupier Blaine Cooper, holding an assault rifle, walked through the group and sarcastically mused, "If you can't solve an argument in this circle, how you going to fight the feds?''
Thorn, dressed in camouflage with the word "militia'' visible in block letters across the front of his jacket, sat on a stool with several assault rifles between his legs.
"What's been our training the last few days?'' he asked.
Someone answered that the group shouldn't use "guerilla force'' or "hold ground'' against "overwhelming arms.''
Many suspected that the FBI had the refuge surrounded and feared the agents would raid the property as they ordered everyone to leave.
About 20 people remaining disagreed on whether they had achieved anything in their takeover of the federal wildlife sanctuary, which began on Jan. 2, 2016.
Another blurted out, "We already have our martyr,'' and an unidentified man suggested targeting federal officials, saying "execute them, their families and everyone.''
Cooper proposed driving off the refuge in one of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service firetrucks on the property with others following in a convoy behind it.
"If they try to (expletive) with us, lay lead down,'' Cooper said, meaning opening fire.
Thorn looked at Cooper in disbelief. "You'd be driving a government vehicle,'' Thorn told him.
"You think that's more tactical than standing peacefully here?'' Patrick asked Cooper, adding that he came to the refuge to defend the U.S. Constitution, not fight.
"The reason we're winning is because we're standing and defending,'' Patrick said. "We are the David in the David and Goliath story.''
Someone out of view yelled out, "We didn't win. Somebody died.''
Patrick acknowledged that clearly Robert "LaVoy'' Finicum's death "is not a win.''
State troopers late that afternoon had shot Finicum when he sped away from a traffic stop on U.S. 395 between Burns and John Day on the way to a community meeting and then crashed into a snowbank at a roadblock. Investigators said he reached for a loaded pistol in his jacket pocket. Police had just arrested Ammon Bundy and others at the stop.
But Patrick said he had spoken to the media and had said those remaining were fully prepared for a ''peaceful resolution.''
Some suggested regrouping in Idaho.
Clearly agitated and losing his patience, Thorn cut in: "I got dropped off here. I don't have a (expletive) job no more.''
Thorn called out others as "salty mother-(expletive)'' who are talking with their "tails between their legs.''
"We came here for one (expletive) reason, and that's to fight!'' Thorn continued. "I'm here to fight. I'm not here to run.''
Finally came a vote.
"All in favor of leaving and going on a convoy to Idaho, say aye,'' Patrick yelled out.
No one said a word.
"Unanimous decision ... we're staying,'' Patrick said.
The next day, though, Patrick, Thorn, and Ryan left the refuge, following the lead of Ehmer.
After court, Thorn told The Oregonian/OregonLive, "I know that video looks crazy.'' But he said he and others were panicked and paranoid, and angry that their friend, Finicum, had been killed.
Ehmer emerged from the courtroom, smiling, and noted, "I wasn't in that video.''
-- Maxine Bernstein
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