The first witness called by the prosecution as they began to make their case today was Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward. Sheriff Ward testified that:
“I was told my responsibility was to prevent them from going to prison, and if I didn’t do those things, they would bring hundreds of people to town to do my job for me,” Ward testified.
The ultimatum “in my mind, sounded bad,” the sheriff said.
Bundy also referenced the 2014 standoff with federal officers outside his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada, calling Bunkerville “a great victory” because the federal government was forced to retreat.
Ward said he encouraged Bundy and Payne to work through lawful channels rather than contemplating civil unrest, and stressed that the community would not tolerate the type of actions that occurred at Bunkerville.
Ward said he made it clear to the two men that, “We could not have violence or bloodshed in our community.”
He also testified that:
In a followup call, after it became apparent Ammon Bundy was taking a leadership role, the sheriff cautioned him. If anything goes wrong in the community, Ward said, “you’re going to be held responsible for it.”
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office was being flooded with with emails and phone calls seeking his intervention in the Hammonds’ situation. The agency was seeing 10 times the usual volume, he said, and it was impossible to keep up.
Among those were two November 2015 emails from co-defendant Neil Wampler. On Nov. 17, Wampler wrote that the sheriff had two options for handling the Hammond case: Protect your constituents or “see your county invaded by some of the most determined and organized and armed citizens alive in this country today.
“The Bundys have sent out a nationwide alert.”
Three days later, Wampler sent another email to Ward. Part of it read, “I assure you that our determination to protect the Hammonds is no Bluff…Hundreds of armed citizens, including yours truly, are prepared and waiting for the call WE AIN’T PLAYIN’. As Sheriff Poindexter said, let the chips fall where they may.”
Ammon Bundy also issued him an ultimatum:
“You have one week, sheriff,” Ward said Bundy told him, before adding something to the effect of, “One week to do the right thing.”
Click on over to read all of Maxine Bernstein’s excellent coverage of the trial. Here’s the rest of today’s highlights and a lay out of where things go from here.
We’ll be back tomorrow night, good citizens, to check in on how the Bundys Turn. Same Bundy time, same Bundy station.