Oregon occupier charged with damaging tribal grounds remains at large

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2016 6:44 PM

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A protester in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge whose identity was revealed this week after he was indicted on three felony charges related to the occupation remains at large, officials said on Tuesday.  

A federal grand jury indictment accuses Jake Ryan of conspiracy to impede U.S. officers, possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and depredation of government property related to the 41-day standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

    The indictment, dated March 8, charges Ryan and fellow protester Sean Anderson with damaging an archeological site considered sacred to the Burns Pauite Tribe, through the use of excavation and heavy equipment.

Of the 26 defendants named in the indictment, Ryan and another protester, Travis Cox, are the only two who have not been arrested.

Ryan’s name had previously been redacted from court documents because he has not been taken into custody, Gerri Badden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon, said on Tuesday.

Prosecutors have previously said occupiers excavated a trench with "significant amounts of human feces," and plowed an improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts.

On Monday, U.S. Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell visited the Malheur refuge and met with aggrieved leaders of the Paiute Tribe.

The FBI has said it was working with the tribe to identify damage to artifacts and sacred burial grounds. A spokeswoman declined on Tuesday to elaborate on the agency's findings or the indictment.

Badden said other defendants, including protest leader Ammon Bundy, were due in federal court in Portland on Tuesday for preliminary hearings.

    A Facebook message purportedly from Ryan's family posted on Monday asked supporters to "continue to be the moral support we need at this time."

    Jeanette Finicum, the wife of protester Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, who was fatally shot during a confrontation with state police, posted a Facebook message saying that Ryan is "guilty of nothing."   

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sara Catania and Dan Grebler)