Contributed by Shannon S. Coulter
Fearful of a gunfight in the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, Ranger Patrick Apley of the Bureau of Land Management said he turned off his body camera. “I felt like we were going to be in a firefight, and I really didn’t want to record that,” the ranger stated.
This Tuesday, defendants began trial for their role in the April 12, 2014 armed standoff in which six men are accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy to block federal authorities from seizing his cattle. Apley’s body camera recorded the events until the situation escalated with armed protesters standing ground against law enforcement officers, both testifying they feared gunfire erupting on the open range.
During the trial, federal prosecutors played the body footage, which cut off after Apley said, “It’s gonna get Western.”
When asked about this decision by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, Apley replied, “I didn’t want to record any mayhem.”
In response, Jesse Marchese, the attorney representing defendant Eric Parker, questioned, “What’s the purpose of having a body camera?”
Apley testified, “The purpose of a body camera is to record the incident. However, I was under a lot of stress at that point and I just didn’t want to continue with all that.”
He also stated, “I was mad.”
During direct examination, Myhre asked Apley about the nature and severity of the threat federal law enforcement felt due to the protesters, including how Apley would rate the threat on a scale of one to 10 and if the events have affected Apley’s current ability to carry out his duties.
Apley testified that as the standoff grew more tense, he and several other agents spent 10 to 15 minutes standing behind the bed of a pickup truck with weapons drawn before deciding to abandon the operation. He rated the threat “about a 7,” comparing it to his combat days.
The ranger continued, “I’m more aware of my surroundings now. I’m a little bit more leery of people carrying guns, and how they’re carrying guns.”
The six men on trial Tuesday are not Nevada residents. Federal prosecutors characterize them as “gunmen” because they came out of state to join armed protestors after learning of the showdown online. They are being tried for conspiracy, extortion, threats, and assault. They are the first of three groups to be tried in the case, after federal prosecutors split 17 defendants into groups of culpability for trial.
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