Monday, September 26, 2016

Outside Looking In: Rancher Describes His View Of The Malheur Occupation

Harney County rancher Andy Dunbar had perhaps one of the best views of the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He lives right next to it. “They’re my closest neighbor,” said Dunbar, who testified Thursday in the trial for seven refuge occupiers. Dunbar’s testimony created a narrative of how the occupation unfolded from someone literally on the outside looking in. Dressed in a plaid shirt tucked into blue jeans with a large belt buckle and hat hair, Dunbar explained the occupation’s effect on his daily life on the ranch. On Jan. 2, the day the occupation started, Dunbar was having lunch with his wife at The Narrows, an RV park a few miles from the refuge headquarters, when Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward called the shop owner. According to Dunbar’s testimony, Ward told the owner a group of vehicles was headed toward The Narrows. Dunbar said he went to the refuge after lunch, where he claimed to see around a dozen people. “To the best of my knowledge, they were all armed,” Dunbar said in court. In the days that followed, Dunbar watched the occupation play out from his ranch. He said those at the refuge appeared to secure a perimeter, placing men armed with long guns at the front gate. Dunbar said he saw people in a nearby watch tower. Looking through binoculars, Dunbar claimed to see a person in the tower pointing a gun in his direction. Mumford asked Dunbar during cross-examination if it was possible people in the tower were just watching him through a scope to see who was watching them. Dunbar agreed it was possible. Upon questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel, Dunbar testified that time of year was calving season, so he had to continue to tend closely to his cattle despite the ongoing occupation. “It’s my livelihood,” Dunbar said. Dunbar’s testimony appeared to show how that livelihood was interrupted. Dunbar described the high-stress situation to OPB in late January. At the time, Dunbar said he enjoyed having FBI agents nearby, but it was still extremely tense living between the final occupiers and the FBI perimeter. He testified to seeing occupiers in what he thought were government vehicles, patrolling the refuge. He also said he heard gunfire for a series of days in mid-January...more

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