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March 4, 2016

Multi-State Indictments Bring Bundy-Related Arrests To 38

Updated March 22, 2016, to reflect additional charges and defendants.

In early March, federal prosecutors in Las Vegas announced charges against 14 anti-government extremists from a variety of states in connection with a 2014 armed standoff between the federal government and supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy at Bundy’s ranch.  Prosecutors added additional defendants later in the month.  As of March 22, 19 people have been indicted for that confrontation, including Bundy himself and four of his sons.

Many of those indicted on charges related to the Bundy Ranch standoff, or present at that standoff but not indicted, have also separately been indicted in connection with the more recent armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, in January-February 2016. This includes alleged ringleader Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, both sons of Cliven Bundy.  As of March 22, 26 people have been indicted on various charges related to the Malheur standoff.

Almost all of the organizers and many of the participants of the 2016 standoff in Oregon had taken part in the earlier standoff in Nevada.

The below chart shows the 38 people indicted so far in the two armed confrontations. More indictments may be forthcoming.

Bundy Standoffs Chart 3-22-16

 

 

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January 3, 2016

Militia Standoff in Oregon: Expected and Unexpected

jonritzheimerhammondjustification (1)

Jon Ritzheimer video justifying his actions

Armed anti-government activists associated with militia groups and other right-wing extremist movements seized control of the headquarters building for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, 2016, precipitating what is, in effect, an armed standoff with the federal government. 
 
Though some sort of confrontation between militia activists and the federal government in the Pacific Northwest has been brewing for months, the seizure itself is unusual and a new departure for anti-government extremists.
 
The action was taken because of anger over the situation of father and son ranchers in Harney County in southeast Oregon.  The ranchers, Dwight Hammond, Jr., and Steven Hammond, were convicted of arson for setting fire to around 130 acres of federal land, but were given light sentences.  An appellate court ruled that their sentences were too short and mandated new sentences of 4-5 years.  They were ordered to report to federal prison on January 4.
 
Many people were sympathetic to the perceived plight of the Hammonds, but it was right-wing anti-government extremists in particular who adopted the ranchers as a cause célèbre, using them to mobilize anger at the government.  Their “adoption” of the Hammonds was hardly surprising, as militia groups, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and other anti-government extremists have actively been seeking confrontations with the federal government for more than a year now, thanks to the Cliven Bundy standoff of 2014.
 
Cliven Bundy is a Nevada rancher who got into trouble with the Bureau of Land Management for grazing his cattle on federal land without proper permits.  In March 2014, the BLM began to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal land but were stopped by a group of armed protesters.  This precipitated the standoff, in which right-wing extremists from around the country made their way to the Bundy ranch to “protect” Cliven Bundy and his property from the federal government.  Bundy, who shared some of their anti-government views, welcomed the support.  During the standoff, armed extremists allegedly pointed weapons at federal and local law enforcement officers. 
 
In the end, the federal government backed down and stopped the confiscation operation, leaving Bundy and his militia supporters to declare victory.  The incident was viewed by the militia movement and related groups as a huge success and one that should be replicated elsewhere if possible. 
 
Since the Bundy standoff, anti-government extremists have actively been seeking other future “Bundys” around which they could rally.  Several of the prime candidates for future confrontations have been located in the Pacific Northwest.  In particular, anti-government extremists have rallied in 2015 to “help” mine owners in Oregon (the Sugar Pine Mine near Merlin) and Montana (the White Hope Mine near Lincoln) who each had disputes with the federal government, causing many to fear the possibility of some sort of armed clash.
 
In the end, however, it was the Hammonds who ended up being the new “Bundys,” though they themselves do not appear to have supported or condoned the seizure of the federal building and have said they will report to prison as ordered.  This does not seem to have deterred the activists, several of whom have direct ties to the Bundy standoff.  Indeed, two of the people involved, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are in fact sons of Cliven Bundy.  Militia activist Ryan Payne of Montana is another veteran of the Bundy standoff allegedly involved in the seizure.  Also prominent is Arizona extremist Jon Ritzheimer, who has recently organized anti-Muslim events and threatened to arrest elected officials.
 
But if some sort of clash was expected and if many of the players involved are familiar faces, what is definitely new is the specific tactic of seizing and holding the wildlife refuge headquarters. 
 
Right-wing standoffs and confrontations with government or law enforcement overwhelmingly take one of two forms.  The first is when extremists rally to “protect” perceived victims of government, such as people who face their home or land being seized for non-payment of taxes.  The Bundy standoff is an example of such a confrontation, which takes place at the location of the perceived victim.  The second is the typical “barricaded felon” situation in which an extremist who has committed a crime or is a fugitive has holed up somewhere and will not surrender.  The Montana Freeman standoff of 1996 was such a confrontation. 
 
In this case, however, right-wing extremists proactively seized and are holding a government building—a symbolic target.  Such a tactic has historically been far more common with left-wing activists or extremists, including the seizure of many university buildings in the 1960s and 70s, as well as other locations or places, such as the takeover of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973.
 
Because this is a new tactic for anti-government extremists, it remains unclear how the scenario is likely to play itself out.  But since the building they seized was empty at the time and there is no hostage situation, it is likely that federal authorities will be slow and deliberate in their response in order to minimize the possibility of violence.

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December 3, 2015

Bonnie and Clydes Rare—But Not Unheard Of—In Violent Extremism

Syed Farook

Syed Farook

Background information on Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married perpetrators of the tragic mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, is still sparse, as is clarity concerning the motive behind the vicious attack that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

However, according to media reports from the in-progress investigation, there is growing concern among law enforcement officials that the shootings may have had a connection to Islamic extremism or that there might have been a mixed extremist/workplace motive behind them.  The FBI has said that it is now treating its investigation of the killings as a counter-terrorism investigation.

One thing that is exceedingly rare in traditional workplace shootings is for there to be multiple perpetrators, as there was in this case.  As one law enforcement official told The New York Times, “You don’t take your wife to a workplace shooting, and especially not as prepared as they were.  He could have been radicalized, ready to go with some type of attack, and then had a dispute at work and decided to do something.”

Multiple perpetrators are certainly common in extremist-related crimes, of course, despite the existence of the “lone wolf” phenomenon.  Women are also frequently involved in extremist-related criminal activity in almost every extremist movement in the United States.

However, when one examines recent criminal cases in the U.S. involving domestic Islamic extremists, one finds that female partners of male perpetrators—even when themselves involved in criminal activities—have not typically engaged in violence.  Overseas, women have sometimes taken on more violent roles, including as suicide bombers.

If an Islamic extremist motive is confirmed in the San Bernardino shootings, the fact of husband-and-wife shooters would be a new wrinkle in the history of the violent tactics of that movement in the United States.

Extremist-related violence involving husbands and wives—or non-married partners—is actually not unheard of in the United States, but it tends to come from a very different source:  right-wing extremism.  Though not what one could call a common phenomenon, such violent “Bonnie and Clyde” couples do emerge with regularity from within both the white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements in the United States.

In fact, right-wing extremism even produced an example of the exceedingly rare phenomenon of a married couple both of whom were on death row:  anti-government extremists Linda Lyon Block and George Sibley.  In 1993, the two sovereign citizens non-fatally stabbed Block’s ex-husband, then while on the run murdered an Alabama police officer in a shootout.  Both were executed in the 2000s.

In more recent years, extremist couples have been involved with everything from standoffs with police to hate crimes to terrorist conspiracies.  But some of the most shocking “Bonnie and Clyde” incidents have involved multiple homicides committed by white supremacists and anti-government extremists:

  • Jerad and Amanda Miller, a young married couple who adhered to the anti-government ideology of the militia movement, targeted two Las Vegas police officers for assassination in June 2014, killing them at a pizza restaurant as they ate their Sunday lunch.  The couple crossed the street to a Wal-mart in anticipation of a final shootout with first responders, where Amanda killed an armed civilian trying to stop them.  As they had intended, they did both die during a shootout with law enforcement at the store, with a wounded Amanda killing herself after Jerad was shot.
  • Jeremy and Christine Moody, white supremacists from Union County, South Carolina, killed a nearby married couple in July 2013 in a particularly grisly double homicide in which both victims were shot and stabbed.  The Moodys had targeted the victim because they wanted to kill a registered sex offender and found the male victim’s name and address on the Internet.  They killed his wife because she had married a sex offender.  Both pleaded guilty to murder in 2014, receiving life sentences with no parole, but were unrepentant, with Christine Moody calling the day of the murders “the best day of my life.”
  • Holly Grigsby and David Pedersen, a white supremacist couple from Oregon, embarked upon a multi-state murder spree in 2011 that totaled four killed before police could find and stop them.  The pair traveled to Washington to murder Pederson’s father and stepmother, each killing one victim, then killed a young man in Oregon to steal his car and because they thought he might be Jewish.  They killed an African-American man in northern California in another carjacking attempt, though they did not end up taking the vehicle, then were finally apprehended by the California Highway Patrol.  Grigsby told the arresting officers that they were to Sacramento to “kill more Jews” when they were stopped.  Both pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes and received life sentences.

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