|Jeff Kagan (Facebook)|
By Travis Gettys
Rumors and harsh facts arriving from outside the grounds of an Oregon nature preserve appear to be roiling the armed militants who have taken over a federal building in hopes of sparking an armed confrontation with government agents.
At least one of the militants, Joe “Capt. O” Oshaugnessy, left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge amid drinking claims after arguing with participants over bringing their wives and children to the standoff, and another — Brian “Booda” Cavalier — left the compound after news reports revealed he had lied about serving in the military.
A former compatriot-turned-opponent claims one of the most prominent militants, Blaine Cooper, sucker-punched one of his friends — sending the counter-protester to the hospital with a concussion and serious facial injuries.
Lewis Arthur, who describes himself as an anti-violence patriot and head of the Veterans on Patrol activist group, said he arrived Wednesday with three other men to remove a “radicalized” and “suicidal” veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a tendency toward violence when he’s placed under stress.
“We came up here to de-escalate the situation and to convince someone that having the federal government killing you is not going to make you a martyr, and the majority of the ‘patriots’ are pounding on their keyboards — they’re not going to rise up,” Arthur said in a video posted Thursday evening on Facebook.
Arthur said the 36-year-old Cooper, a former friend, attacked a member of his three-man crew during an argument over their mission to remove women, children and Ryan Payne — a U.S. Army veteran who has bragged about setting up sniper teams to target federal agents during the 2014 standoff at Bundy ranch.
“(Payne) made it very clear out there that he wanted the federal government to go and take him out,” Arthur said. “I had to come up here because I know what he wants.”
However, Cooper and other militants say Arthur, who set up a camp across the road from the nature preserve, initiated the fight by assaulting a guard and trying to enter the compound.
Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona militiaman known for organizing anti-Muslim rallies, disputed that Payne hoped to become a martyr to the “patriot” cause and said Arthur was merely seeking “a couple of seconds of fame.”
John Hildinger, who was arrested on a Maryland firearms charge on his way to the anti-Obama “Operation American Spring” rally in 2013 and is well-known in the “patriot” movement, said he had been receiving damaging information about Cooper, Payne and Brian “Booda” Cavalier — all of whom he described as loose cannons — from multiple sources.