BURNS, OR -- In a statement issued to Harney County residents, Monday evening, Sheriff Dave Ward confirmed reports of intimidation tactics used by those occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 30 miles south of Burns. As KBND was first to report, some members of the community say they they have been targeted for harassment.
Statement from Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward:
“When those who are now occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge first came to town several months ago, we started to see an up-tick in the number of vandalism, harassment and intimidation reports. In recent days, they issued a “call to action,” which resulted in the arrival of numerous outside militia members. They claim to be here in peace, but we continue to see behavior by some that is concerning. There are continual reports of law enforcement officers and community members being followed home; of people sitting in cars outside their homes, observing their movements and those of their families; and of people following them and their families as they move around the community. While not direct physical threats, these activities are clearly designed to try to intimidate.
Specifically, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which manages the refuge, has told me that while their employees are physically safe, this is clearly a distressful situation for all involved. As this issue has developed over the past week, employees and their loved ones have reported a number of uncomfortable incidences in which unknown individuals from outside our community have driven past slowly or idled in front of their homes, observing the residents and their activities. In addition, self-identified militia members have attempted to engage employees and family members in debates about their status as Federal employees. Many of these confrontations are taking place as their employees are grocery shopping, running errands with their families and trying to lead their day-to day lives.
Let me be clear: the law enforcement agencies – those that are local as well as the sheriff’s deputies from around the state, the Oregon State Police troopers and the FBI Agents – will not be intimidated from doing their jobs. Everyone on the law enforcement side is working together to bring a peaceful resolution to this situation, and the behavior of these folks from outside of our community only serves to escalate the situation unnecessarily.
The people on the refuge – and those who they have called to our community – obviously have no consideration for the wishes or needs of the people of Harney County. If they did, they, too, would work to bring this situation to a peaceful close.”