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Farmer and rancher, Cliven Bundy, bounced down the dusty ranch road in his old pickup truck, one cool, clear winter day, when his cell phone rang.
The 69-year-old struggled to pull the phone from his front shirt pocket, all the while fighting to keep the lurching truck in the deeply-grooved, dirt tracks.
Finally getting the phone to his ear, he was stunned at the words no parent ever wants to hear.
“Cliven, Ryan has been shot.” There was a long pause. “He’s dead.”
Not quite grasping what he had just heard, Cliven could only manage to ask, “What happened?”
The answer to that question reads like the script of a Hollywood movie.
Aiming for media and public attention to the governmental abuses of ranchers in the western United States, two of Bundy’s boys – Ammon and Ryan, along with several others – had occupied the Harney County Resource Center, about 35 miles outside of the little town of Burns, Oregon. They’d chosen this center to focus attention on two local area ranchers.
During the so-called ‘Take Over’ – as the government characterized (and the media sensationalized) it – Ryan and Ammon often traveled to surrounding counties, speaking to various groups and local officials about the government’s abuse of the ranchers’ rights. On this January 2016 trip, the group was headed to the town of John Day, Oregon to meet with the local sheriff, Glenn Palmer, and a group of 400 citizens to clarify their purpose in occupying the resource center.
Unbeknown to the Bundy brothers and the four other supporters traveling with them, one other member of their group – Mark McConnell – was a confidential informant for the FBI and had already notified his FBI handler about their route, departure time, and, most-likely, their scant armament (Oregon is an open-carry state; but, only McConnell had a gun).
Today; however, was planned for more than routine surveillance of their activities. Quite a force of FBI and Oregon State Police were assembled to intercept these travelers. The goal of the FBI para-military unit was to head off another “Bundy ranch incident” like the one, two years earlier, that had made the news worldwide and deeply humiliated the Federal Government. The FBI’s highly-trained team was determined that such embarrassment would not be repeated. They had vowed to “cut the head off” the leadership of the unfolding Harney County Resource Center ‘Take Over.’ Their targets were Ryan and Ammon Bundy.
As the group passed an intersecting dirt road, the driver of the lead truck in the two-vehicle caravan noticed a dozen black vans and trucks with blacked-out windows and flashing red and blue lights pull out behind the small caravan. It was the Oregon State Police.
As the lead truck stopped about 100 yards ahead, the front passenger in the second truck put his hands out his rolled-down window, showing the authorities that he had no weapon and, immediately, with a loud crack, the right passenger mirror exploded. They were being fired at! Worse, as the lead vehicle attempted to go around the roadblock of State Police and FBI vehicles in front of them – they immediately drew more fire – from snipers in the surrounding woods!
Commanded “OUT!” Robert “LaVoy” Finicum leaped from the lead vehicle driver’s door, hands in the air, and shouting that they were expected by Sheriff Palmer in John Day. His body fell in the snow, riddled by the police volley fired in response.
Eventually, the hail of sniper-fire and stun-grenades at the trucks stopped and the siege ended. The surviving passengers emerged without further incident. Of the nearly 100 rounds that law enforcement fired into the two trucks, one bullet had hit Ryan Bundy in the arm ‒ ‘evidence’ whose removal he refused, lest it get ‘lost.’
Back home, Cliven and his wife, Carol, were distraught, not hearing any more than his earlier message. It wasn’t until that night that they learned that Ryan Bundy was only injured and still alive.
Once Ryan Bundy was medically cleared, he – and four others – were put into individual squad cars and rushed to the Multnomah County Jail in Portland, about five hours away. Ryan, Ammon, and one other were under arrest. Three were released. LaVoy Finicum lay dead.
This FBI and police ambush was a lethal chapter in the story of Cliven Bundy and his fight for the rights of landowners facing government eviction and harassment.
But, there is so much more to this story.
Learn more about Cliven Bundy: American Terrorist Patriot or get your book copy here.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, ex-felon, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column. (MikeStickler.com)