On April 12, 2014, a group of protesters, some armed, advanced on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during the Bundy standoff in Nevada. Jason Arment interviews one of the armed protesters.
I’ve wanted to interview the man known as “The Bundy Sniper” since the armed standoff at the Bundy Ranch between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a motley crew of cowboys, militiamen, and protesters. And now I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with him. Admittedly, Eric Parker and I let life get in the way, so we’re a little over a year truant with these words. We did the interview the Friday night of the weekend LaVoy Finicum was killed in eastern Oregon and we speak of Finicum in a future installment (it’s a long interview). And when I say speak, I mean it—this interview was done over the telephone and later transcribed.
Ever since my time in Iraq as a Machine Gunner, Government use of force has fascinated me. In this way, the standoff that happened at Bundy’s ranch fascinates me and elements of what happened, and is happening, in eastern Oregon grab my attention. Just as they’ve grabbed the attention of the rest of the nation.
Do you consider yourself famous?
I’ve got notoriety—people know who I am.
You’re known for being the gentleman crouched behind the jersey barriers at that climactic moment at the Bundy Ranch standoff. What exactly was going on at that moment?
I was down the highway about 100 yards or so. There was an argument going back and forth between Sheriff’s deputies and a big crowd of people. And that’s where I was for awhile. And then a friend of mine yelled, “They need help down under the bridge.” And I didn’t even know there were people going down there; I wasn’t paying attention. I got over to the bridge and saw the people flowing down into the wash. And that was the first time I really saw the fence and the trucks and the guys that looked like they were from Fallujah.
So we were there for a little while. Everybody kind of gathered down there. We were just hanging out on the bridge watching. At that time, too, we saw the sniper positions, up on the hill, on the mesa, behind where the BLM had been set up. What happened was they got on the loudspeaker and started giving commands to disperse. The people all stopped for a minute, and then they just kept going toward the fence. During that time, though, they said they had been authorized to use lethal force, if they kept coming toward the fence.
I took them pretty serious with their sniper positions and I thought to myself, Holy shit, they’re going to shoot people, or some cows. At that time, it was my intuition to take a defensive position and wait to see what happened.
I think that was probably a pretty good intuitive decision, considering. I have some questions about the BLM and their activities going on at that moment. And you might not have all the answers, and I don’t expect you to, by any means. But what I never understood, and I did follow the situation, I think, more closely than the average person—it seemed like there was kind of a flashpoint being created near the BLM. Like you said you heard they were authorized to use lethal force. They had had some kind of preconceived idea that people might present themselves in this area.
I guess I’m just wondering, what was the BLM trying to accomplish? Did they have any set goals in this physical confrontation? Because it’s so much different, the Bundy scenario, than what’s going in Oregon; the federales are nowhere to be seen, but at the Bundy Ranch they were right there. Did they have any stated goals? Did they communicate with you at all? By you I mean the people that were there at the Bundy Ranch. Was there any communication? What was their objective? What was the BLM doing with sniper positions to begin with?
First thing you should know is we, we being me and two of my buddies, drove down there Friday. It happened on Saturday. All we’d seen was the video of Ammond getting tasered and heard that they’d put up these free speech zones and were telling people they couldn’t protest outside of the zones. They knew everyone was coming because that video went viral, and that’s when we decided to go. So I had no prior knowledge of the whole militia operation that was going on the whole time. I found out later that that had been going on for two or three weeks.
We just kind of got there at the right time, or the wrong time, depending on how you think about it.
But, as far as what the BLM doing, I’ve talked to a lot of people that were there that whole time. They were …
I don’t really have an opinion on the cows.
I know that they were there. I think that it should have gone to court. There should have been a lien put on the cattle, and you can’t sell it unless the money goes to the government. Or however they do it—I’m not a lawyer. But I know that they were arguing and Cliven told the BLM to piss off, and when you do that to the BLM—I’ve learned from talking to all these ranchers over the past year and a half—they hold a vendetta. And there was so much other stuff at play, that we found out later. The Harry Reed solar ranch, and the involvement of that company in trying to make a solar ranch out there. I mean, there was a BLM document that mentioned Cliven Bundy by name and removing what they called “trespass cattle.” They had to do that to finish the Solar Ranch. This foreign company, from China, wasn’t going to continue to build their ranch without a nature easement. And they weren’t going to put the money into the nature easement with “trespass cattle.”
Basically, Bundy was holding up a big corporate deal. And I didn’t know any of that at the time, but it’s all proven and shown now that there were all these interests at play. Cliven didn’t pay those grazing fees for almost twenty years and no one messed with him until someone was going to make money out there and he was in the way.
So you show up that day and you basically end up rolling right into this situation that was then photographed, if I’m understanding you correctly?
Pretty much. I was standing there. When they said they’d been authorized to use lethal force if the people took another step. Like I said, I saw the sniper positions, I mean they had a sniper in their SUV that backed in. I knew I was in the cross hairs, so, I mean, I didn’t really think about it. I was just getting down.
Did the BLM make clear to the protesters, I’m assuming these protesters were outside of the free speech zone. That’s what I’m kind asking … as far as the geographics. So the BLM, they’d set up some kind of line, and there were protesters. Did they announce that lethal force was now on the table?
Yeah. Yeah, man. It still blows my mind. So this is the way it went down. All the people gathered up down there. Then the horseback riders came in. They all started marching toward the fence; it was like a Western! They proceed toward the fence with BLM with their tactical gear—there weren’t any sheriffs down there, there wasn’t any Metro down there, it was all these dudes I thought were private contractors at the time. There was no telling me they weren’t private contractors.
The people are marching toward the line, and a guy on a loudspeaker, a BLM dude says, “We’ve been authorized to use gas.” But there’s a bunch of kids down there, and women. A lot of people down there were just protesters. So I kind of looked at my buddy and said, “If they shoot tear gas you can’t open fire. If it’s nonlethal force they’re using you can’t match it with lethal force.” So as we’re having that discussion, the people are still moving toward the fence, they’d never missed a step. Within a couple of minutes they get back on the loudspeaker and they say, “We’ve been authorized to use lethal force if you take another step.”
And that’s some of the footage you can see; some of the live stream footage that was there. They said they were going to kill everybody if they kept going toward the fence. Whether it was just a threat to get everyone to back off, or if they were actually authorized by somebody—that’s my question, who authorized lethal force?
Especially because they’re law enforcement, it’s in question anyway constitutionally speaking. So some bureaucrat at a desk said, “If those Americans keep coming towards the fence, ice them?”
Part of the reason we went was that I grew up in northern Nevada, so when I saw that video, “Chaos, anarchy in Nevada. Man tased four times,” I clicked it.
I found this out later. Harry Reed appointed this guy to the head of the BLM. And within two weeks all this stuff started going down. And Harry Reed’s son is tied to that company, the Chinese-based company—it’s all like the mafia. It’s all fascism, corporate and government.
So you get down on the ground, obviously making yourself small because you’re worried about getting shot at. And then what happens?
I got down. And then I couldn’t see very well. They kept calling me “The Bundy Sniper” but I was not prepared for that position at all. So, actually, my buddy was looking over the wall with binoculars telling me what was going on. And we waited it out.
[Eric breathes a long sigh.]
Eventually, I’m not sure who stopped on their side. I think it was probably one of the Assistant Sheriff’s deputies. And they backed out of there. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we were all going to make it out of that situation. I didn’t think it was going to end well.
Describe their forces and egress.
They were stacked up along two Ranger SUVs—by Ranger, I just mean BLM Ranger-marked vehicles. They were stacked there in tactical gear, the guy in the front had a shield, and the guy over his shoulder had the tear gas launcher at first, and then an AR-15 later, after he handed off the other one. There was probably stacked on the car, one behind the other, all behind the shield with AR-15s. Then there were a couple of other groups back in the sage a little more—I couldn’t really see what they were doing.
They backed an unmarked brown SUV, you can see that in some of the live stream too. They backed it in which made me think they had a shooter in the back of the SUV. I found out later that that was most likely the case because one of the State Patrol guys pulled up to it and talks to it for a second, then the SUV pulls away.
The guys I was really paying attention to were the guys stacked up on the SUVs. They kept their position while the head dude, Daniel Love, was negotiating with them at the gate. You can see that in a lot of the video as well, dude with the Goose sunglasses on. I don’t really know what happened there, but I guess they said that they were leaving and going to return the cattle. As they fell back, they kept pointing at the crowd, they kept their attention on the crowd and on us.
So it was a very tactical egress.
Yeah, it was a straight up tactical egress. That guy, Daniel P. Love, he’s down there wearing—and I didn’t see this at the time, I was too far away—but he’s down there with his tactical vest wearing “POLICE.” That’s all his tactical vest said, “POLICE.” He’s the guy running the whole thing for the BLM. There should be an issue there, with properly identifying who you are in a situation like that so you know who you’re possibly engaging with.
Having dealt with BLM before, what do you know about their authority?
It’s pretty intense. I’ve heard of some pretty crazy stuff. Especially if you were, say, a miner on a mining claim that was really old. So you’re grandfathered in all these other laws, and policies, I guess I should say rather, have been made and put in place but they don’t apply to you, so you’re out there mining. They have some serious heavy-handed tactics to shut people down.
In brief, could you describe one or two of them for me?
Lots of intimidation is where they usually start. Like with the ranchers. The ranchers, let’s say, like over here in eastern Oregon. They had a real issue with their burn policy, the ranchers did. They were lighting back burns that blew right into the cattle. They literally burned cattle to death and almost burned down some homes. If anyone spoke out against that as a rancher they would have problems getting their grazing permits renewed the next year.
And so, here’s a family, and a lot of the left will be like “they’re rich.” That’s just not the case. They’re just an average ranching family, they’re not rich by any means. And it’s just catastrophic when they pull those permits, they can’t put them out there and graze them during the summer and grow hay on their property for winter. So they can basically just shut them down. And then they’ve got no income. And then they have to sell the land that they do have. They target these big landowners. With the miners they’ll go out there and burn down their cabin, and they don’t care if somebody’s in it. A lot of times they’ll trick them to come into town about some bureaucracy paperwork thing or something and then burn it down while they’re gone.
Let’s talk about the people you called private contractors, early you referred to them as people from Fallujah. I’m assuming you’re talking about the company formerly known as Blackwater. The very much mercenary-looking people, like they’re out of Call of Duty if it were real life.
That’s absolutely what I mean. Just like something off of TV. The full-on contractor mercenaries. That’s what I thought I was looking at. I didn’t think the BLM would have anything like that. At the time there was no telling me they weren’t contractors. Later on we found out Daniel P. Love, gotta love the internet. Somebody found him on the Discovery Channel documentary about SOCOM. So he was a member of SOCOM, the guy leading the thing, prior to his involvement with the BLM strike team.
Do they have an actual name?
Yes, they do. Hold on let me get it right. What we were looking at was BLM Strike Force Region Three.
Why does the BLM need a strike force?
If you asked them they would say marijuana fields and dealing with that kind of thing. Which should obviously be the DEA, or the FBI. But no, they need their own.
Are there a lot of marijuana fields?
Some of them down at the border; you’ve got the LEO BLM members where they could possibly encounter a hairy situation. Because I’ve seriously tried to sit back and justify it too, for them. But there really isn’t much justification to it at all.
Was there any justification for such a show of force?
I think that justification is probably not the right word. But, I do think the teams, the tactical teams, were there to engage with the militia who had shown up. I don’t know who came first, the chicken or the egg. But I know that Cliven said that he sent back one of the letters saying he wasn’t going to comply, and told them all to go to hell. And he woke up one day and there were helicopters flying around out there, and trucks, a bunch of contract cowboys rounding up his cattle. When he went to go leave his property to go stop them for cattle rustling, he had people engage him and stop him, and he saw sharpshooters above his house.
So I think they were already there. I think they were there to stop him and his boys.
What about the militancy of the protesters?
Cliven had called out that day to some friends of his who were in the militia. And a few of them showed up, and they made a few call outs, and a bunch of other people showed up. So for like three weeks there was a legitimate securities operation keeping the Bundys safe, and to protect his constitutional rights.
But when the Oath Keepers made their call, and everyone came after they saw the video, some were coming geared up. I did. I was paying special attention to what was really going on, and when somebody said, “What we need to do is give them a show of force back,” I bought into that. That was what I thought needed to happen. Let me say, there was a guy, I’m not sure who he was. He was some legislator, and I think he was from the Utah side of the area. But he got on TV and he said, “Anybody coming to support Cliven Bundy better bring funeral money and a body bag.” He said that on fucking TV. I heard a snippet of it online the day I was packing to go down and, you know, I’ll tell you I grabbed my vest and my rifle too.
I could understand where there might be trepidation. I had a similar situation. Rick Perry had that ad out where he was speaking derogatorily of gays serving in the military and I ended up going to one of his little lunch-ins and ruining his day. And I ended up on television. So I’ve had similar impulses—these things people say and they don’t think anyone is listening; people are indeed listening. So I can understand where you would hear something like that and think, Oh my God. This might turn into something where I fight for my life. So that was kind of your general feeling though, was that you might be put in the position where you would be forced to defend yourself, basically.
[I wrote a story about my experience heckling Rick Perry which is published in Dirty Chai’s seventh issue.]
It all happened so quick. I didn’t think it was going to happen like that, like it did. But I definitely went down there with the intent of defying the free speech box.
And before you know it you’re on the deck fearing for your life and then things sort themselves out. They tactically egress. And then what happens? Because there were a bunch of people taking photos of you on the bridge. Did you end up talking to folks?
We got there Friday night at like 2:00 a.m. One of Cliven’s sons was still out there greeting people coming in. I thought that was kind of cool that one of the Bundys themselves was still out there thanking people who were showing up at two in the morning. He asked us if we were militia, and I told him no, that we were just some guys from Idaho. And he asked do we want to camp with the protesters or the militia. We chose the militia. He told us to go over the bridge, hook a right, and you’ll see a guy at the gates. We shook hands then cruised over there. We set up our tent. We took a watch on the gate because the guy who had watch was a little tipsy, he had been drinking a little bit. So he went to bed, and we took his watch. We’d been driving all night anyway and needed to unwind.
Went to bed after the watch on the road. Got up in the morning and went to this little briefing thing and they said we were going to escort the Bundys out to the stage at the protest area. “Watch the crowd for any kind of weirdness, if you see anything strange, call someone who is in charge,” all the militia guys had been there for a long time. So we did that and then everything kind of happened. Cliven gave them an hour to basically disarm the BLM and stack their machine guns under the American flag and go piss off.
We got to the bridge situation, and as it’s starting look like people are gathering there—it took a minute—we knew that there was a drone flying over. A guy had pointed it out to me and it was really, really high altitude. Just this little silver reflection from the sun, a sliver, doing really big wide circles around the whole ordeal. So me and my buddy, Scott, we kind of realized that the government knew exactly who was there, and so we should probably make sure the world knows we’re there.
And this Reuters lady is interviewing people. And she comes by asks me what we were doing, and we told them who we were and said we were from Idaho, and we’d come because of the free speech zone and people being tased in the street. And that was about it. Then it all went down and escalated, and when I took that position the Reuters guy jumped down there and took a picture of me. And she jumped down and started asking me questions like, “Are you prepared to shoot those people?”
What did you say?
I told her, “Not right now, lady.” And then got back into what I was doing. We’d already told them who we were, so they already knew who we were, then when they snapped the picture it was like, BOOM, Eric Parker from Central Idaho Points His Weapon in the Direction of Federal Agents.
So we’re still sitting there waiting for the cows to come back. All the cowboys went in—BLM and everyone else had bailed out. The cowboys had gone in to get the cows. And my aunt calls me from Carolina and asks me, “Do you have a tattoo of shamrock on your finger.” And I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “You’re on the cover of FOXNews.com.” And I said, “Bullshit.” And then she hangs up on me and sends me a screenshot. And, I mean, we’re still on the bridge, right there. It had happened probably two minutes ago, three minutes ago. And there it was, the headline, and my face, and everything else. So we sat there for a little while, not really thinking much of it. When we got back to the camp after the cows came home, my buddy, he gets his phone and he says, “Siri, when’s the last time the federal government backed down.” And it goes BOOP BOP and there was a picture of me on the screen. And I went, “Oh no, man. They’re going to kill me!”
Have you been harassed at all since then?
After that, we decided it was time to get our asses back to Idaho. So we didn’t really hang much out after. We threw our shit in the truck and bailed. When I got back I was pretty nerve racked. I got into the phone book and found the most expensive-looking lawyer I could find, played like I had some money, and got to talk to the actual head lawyer and it turned out he’s the guy who represented for Ruby Ridge. He tells me, “Well, it’s 10,000 dollars to put me on retainer, and …” blah, blah, blah. “But if something does happen and they do pick you up …,” he said the notoriety of the case would be enough for him to take it. But he said, “Until then, you should talk to this other guy, he’s much cheaper.”
So I call him. And he says, “Well, let me call you back.” And he calls me back in a few hours and says, “Well, I’m sitting here watching all this footage, all this livestream footage from everything, and I’m pretty surprised they haven’t come grabbed you yet.”
I laughed and said, “Me too.”
He said, “But having said that, the situation is kind of unprecedented. Normally in this situation you’d be dead and the case is closed—you were wrong. Since that didn’t happen you have to look at the case and the scenario.”
And I said, “Well, yeah, that’s what I’m saying!”
I’m sure the FBI has looked at all this footage as well. Because what was happening in the days after was Metro was putting out a statement that when they showed up all of these militia guys were already in the backs of trucks with guns, and the horses were there, and they were already taking positions on the road. Like they showed up to see that we were doing that. And that wasn’t the case. They were all already there, and they were all already positioned. So if the FBI were to look at all the livestream of what happened, they could see that Metro was lying.
Now, having said that, I think they were investigating me pretty hard from afar. But the lawyer said that if they come and get me, they have to explain what happened that day, and nobody wants to explain what happened that day.
Like I said before, it’s all about money and the implementing of government force to make a deal go through. I mean, it’s literally fascism. I didn’t know that going in, but looking at it from the backside. It was literally fascism. And it makes me nauseous just thinking about it.