Fear restrains Riggins couple at standoff site

Threat of arrest, being shot keep Andersons from leaving refuge

— “None of them want anything more to do with this. They want to go home,” said Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings of four individuals – two of whom are Riggins residents – who remain at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, site of a month-long standoff by protestors.

But with last week’s death of group spokesman LaVoy Finicum by federal and state law enforcement — as police moved to take protestors into custody on their way to a community meeting in John Day — Sean and Sandy Anderson of Riggins don’t trust the FBI, according to Giddings who spoke to the couple last week by phone. The Andersons are scared they’ll be killed too if they attempt to leave the refuge near Burns, Ore., where protesters have occupied the facility since Jan. 2 regarding perceived overreach in federal lands management in the West.

The FBI has said three can leave, following a search at the roadblock, according to Giddings, but the fourth, Sean Anderson, has a federal warrant for arrest on charges related to the standoff that began Jan. 2. Sean said he hasn’t done anything wrong, according to Giddings; the couple came at least two or more times to the refuge to support the protest concerning private ranchers’ struggles with the federal government.

“They didn’t go there to shoot anybody, they didn’t go there to get into trouble,” Giddings said, who of the pair knows Sandy who works at the Chevron in Riggins. “To my knowledge, they’re not criminals.”

Giddings said this is on the FBI now, which could just let them go home and issue warrants later, but they are backed into a corner at this point, he feels, and won’t back off arresting Sean when he attempts to leave. Giddings said he offered his assistance to the FBI, to meet with the Andersons at the checkpoint as a guarantee for their safety: “They said no deal.”

In the meantime, the Andersons are camping outside the refuge building.

“They can’t sleep, and they’re very frightened,” Giddings said. “Every noise they hear is the FBI sneaking up in the dark,” which concerns the couple they could encounter an agent in the dark and inadvertently startle him and get shot.

“When I talk to him [Sean], he told me he’s hoping for a miracle,” Giddings said.

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