Bundy Ranch surprise: Agents told to stop day before major confrontation…
Bundy Ranch standoff trials:
LAS VEGAS — Law-enforcement officers were ordered by the federal special agent in charge to cease “all operations” hours before an armed standoff at a Nevada ranch reached its tension-filled zenith in 2014.
But they did not. Three law-enforcement officers testified in federal court Thursday that they maintained their positions throughout the night and into the next day, anticipating a bloody gunfight at Bundy Ranch.
The officers told jurors they feared for their lives, prayed to God and thought they would see their partners get shot as cattle ranchers and militia members squared off against federal authorities.
None of the officers explained in court why they were ordered to engage anti-government protesters — and open fire with less than lethal weapons — after being told at least twice to stand down, abandon their efforts to round up private cattle on federal land and leave.
“We were still under threat,” U.S. Parks Police Officer Tara McBride said. “My understanding was we were ceasing gathering cattle and we were to remain in place to provide security for the (incident command post).”
This was one of the first times law-enforcement officials have publicly acknowledged the government orders to back down, drawing attention to a little-known detail about the high-profile confrontation.
Defense attorneys for the men accused of taking up arms against federal agents said the contradictory orders made no sense and escalated the potential for violence.
The six-day standoff reached a climax on April 12, 2014, as hundreds of protesters formed a line across a wash near Interstate 15 about 80 miles north of Las Vegas. Armed men took up positions on the overpass, sighting their rifles at federal agents below.
“All operations had ceased? All operations were done?” Las Vegas lawyer Richard Tanasi asked McBride on cross-examination. “Despite that operations were over, despite your requests to fall back, your requests were being denied?”
Tanasi represents Steven Stewart, one of six defendants charged with conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction for taking up arms to stop the Bureau of Land Management from seizing cattle owned by rancher Cliven Bundy.
The six men, from Arizona, Idaho and Oklahoma, are the first of 17 defendants to go on trial on charges stemming from the Bundy Ranch standoff. Although federal prosecutors designated them as the “least culpable,” the defendants face identical charges and could spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted.
Tanasi said if federal agents had followed the order to cease operations the day before, the standoff could have been defused.
“(Witnesses) testified that they were ceasing all operations,” he said after court Thursday. “It’s either all or it’s not … it makes no sense to me.”
Read more at azcentral
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