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Sheriff's deputies to aid militia standoff in Burns

Columbia County sheriff's deputies will aid in patrols near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

KOIN NEWS PHOTO - Protesters in Burns march Saturday, Jan. 2. On Sunday, armed militants occupied federally owned buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest of father and son ranchers who were sentenced to return to prison.

Two deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will head to Harney County this week to assist with the ongoing militia standoff near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson stated Tuesday that two deputies from his office will head to Burns on Thursday. Both are expected to return Sunday, Jan. 10.

“We are sending some resources along with many other sheriffs around the state to help Sheriff [David] Ward with the temporary, increased demand for public safety in his county,” Dickerson stated via email.

Columbia County is one of several sheriff’s offices throughout the state sending mutual aid to Harney County to assist with patrols during a standoff with militant protesters.

The armed protest broke out Sunday in opposition to the sentencing of father and son ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, respectively, who were sentenced to federal prison after being convicted for arson on Bureau of Land Management land.

Though the Hammonds had earlier served prison time for the arson and had been released, a federal judge ruled they had to report back to prison to satisfy minimum federal sentencing rules.

Ranchers from Nevada and Arizona led an occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday and have not left yet, saying they want the imprisoned ranchers freed and the federal land given to local ranchers there.

In a prepared statement, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association said Wednesday that the state’s 36 sheriff’s offices are “united in the support of

Harney County and its residents.”

“We are supplying logistical and operational support to the community while the FBI works for a peaceful resolution with the militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” the association stated in a news release.

Columbia County deputies will head to the rural eastern Oregon county on their days off, which means they’ll be paid overtime by Columbia County, Dickerson stated.


“This is part of the mutual aid between sheriffs that we frequently benefit from,” he stated. The assistance will cost $950 per day, which includes 12-hour shifts for two deputies working overtime.

Dickerson expects his deputies will be conducting two-man vehicular patrols during their time in Burns.

“I believe that sheriffs are responding correctly,” Dickerson stated.

He said the beef between ranchers and the federal government may be difficult to understand for those who don’t live in the rural area surrounded by BLM land with heavy federal regulations.

“The rule of law is critical to our republic and all protesters in this country should learn the importance of that fact — whether we are talking about people who occupy a federal wildlife refuge or those who occupied and disrupted cities back in 2011; and those who burned federal land or those who burned down Ferguson,” Dickerson stated, referencing the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

Dickerson continued, “Too many — even some politicians — are willing to excuse and/or overlook the unlawful behavior of those with whom they sympathize. I do not know how we can survive as a free republic unless we come together under the rule of law — no matter what our individual worldviews are — to promote peace and unity as a community and nation.”