Four Idahoans among 14 newly indicted in 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff

Protester Eric Parker of Hailey aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp, where seized cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy were being held in April 2014 near Bunkerville, Nev.
Protester Eric Parker of Hailey aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp, where seized cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy were being held in April 2014 near Bunkerville, Nev. Reuters

Eric James Parker, the Hailey electrician whose photograph aiming his rifle at federal agents near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada went worldwide in 2014, was arrested with three other Idaho men Thursday as part of a nationwide roundup.

Parker, 32, and Steve Arthur Stewart, 36, both of Hailey, O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis and Todd Engel, 48, of Boundary County were taken into custody on charges stemming from the standoff when federal officials tried rounding up cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said.

They were among 14 defendants charged this week for the armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that took place in the Bunkerville, Nev., area on April 12, 2014.

“This investigation began the day after the assault against federal law enforcement officers and continues to this day,” U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden said in a news release. “We will continue to work to identify the assaulters and their role in the assault and the aftermath, in order to ensure that justice is served.”

Parker and Stewart were lodged in the Ada County Jail in Boise, according to the National Victim Information and Notification Everyday service (VINE). It was unclear where Drexler and Engel were being held.

But for the courage of the victim officers to back away from their assaulters and abandon the cattle, the actions of (Eric) Parker and his co-conspirators would have resulted in catastrophic death or injury to the officers and others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Whatcott, in describing Parker pointing his assault rifle at federal officers at the Bundy Ranch in 2014.

The others arrested are Melvin D. Bundy, 41, of Round Mountain, Nev.; David H. Bundy, 39, of Delta, Utah; Brian D. Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nev.; Blaine Cooper, 36, of Humboldt, Ariz.; Gerald A. DeLemus, 61, of Rochester, N.H.; Richard R. Lovelien, 52, of Westville, Okla.; Gregory P. Burleson, 52, of Phoenix, Ariz.; Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 43, of Cottonwood, Ariz.; and Micah L. McGuire, 31, and Jason D. Woods, 30, both of Chandler, Ariz.

Twelve defendants were arrested earlier Thursday. Two defendants, Brian D. Cavalier and Blaine Cooper, were already in federal custody in Oregon.

“These indictments and subsequent arrests send an irrefutable message to the American people that our determination remains steadfast to protect them and pursue individuals who participate in violent acts of this nature,” said Special Agent in Charge Laura Bucheit.

Parker, vice president of the Three Percent of Idaho, has spent an increasing amount of time since 2014 confronting federal officers, and appeared in several photos that have run worldwide. They showed him crouched on a bridge aiming his assault rifle at federal agents at the Bundy Ranch. Parker and the Three Percent of Idaho also took part in protests earlier this year in Burns, Ore., to protest the prison sentences of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers, for arson on federal land.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Whatcott wrote in a court filing that Parker “embraced his new-found fame” and became one of the most recognizable figures outside the Bundy family members who participated in the siege. Parker frequently changed his Facebook profile photo to show images of himself pointing his assault rifle at law enforcement officers on April 12, 2014.

Since the Bundy Ranch confrontation, Parker took part in an armed April 2015 confrontation between miners and the Bureau of Land Management in Grants Pass, Ore., and at a protest four months later in Lincoln, Mont. There, Parker set up an armed checkpoint on public land leading to the White Hope Mine. Miners wanted the U.S. Forest Service to cease regulation of the mine, Whatcott wrote.

The newly added defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer. They’re also charged with at least one count of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of the due administration of justice, interference with interstate commerce by extortion and interstate travel in aid of extortion.

The indictment also alleges five counts of criminal forfeiture, which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.

Five other defendants in the Nevada indictment were arrested last month. Cliven D. Bundy, 69, of Bunkerville, Nev., was taken into custody in Portland after arriving by plane to support sons Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nev., Ammon E. Bundy, 40, of Emmett, who were arrested at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., and Peter T. Santilli, Jr., 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, also were arrested at the refuge.

Prosecutors accuse the defendants of planning, organizing and leading an assault to extort officers into abandoning 400 head of cattle in their custody. They also accused the defendants of leading hundreds of armed followers against law enforcement officers to thwart the seizure and removal of Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal public lands. Bundy, federal officials said, trespassed on public lands for more than 20 years, refusing to obtain the legally-required permits or pay the required fees to keep and graze his cattle on the land.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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