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Off-duty sheriff's deputy spots former Cornelius resident Geoffrey Stanek



StanekThe sharp eye of an off-duty sheriff's deputy on his way home from work led to the recent arrest of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier Geoffrey Alan Stanek in Forest Grove.

Stanek, 26, was driving a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta and carrying a loaded gun when Forest Grove Police stopped him on Council Street Feb. 11. Portland FBI agents then took him into custody without incident.

The former Cornelius resident (now living in Lafayette) was one of two dozen activists who took over the federal bird sanctuary near Burns for 41 days in January and February after a peaceful protest in town escalated into an armed occupation at the refuge and made the national news.

Along with several others, Stanek pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to prevent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials from discharging their duties during an appearance in federal district court in Portland last Friday.

Stanek was indicted Feb. 10 by a federal grand jury. He was granted release Feb. 19 by a U.S. district court judge after being detained eight days in Multnomah County.

Capt. Mike Herb of the Forest Grove Police Department said the FBI had shared information about Stanek with local law enforcement.

“We knew he had a warrant for his arrest and we were provided information that he was driving a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta and had the license plate information as well. We also had information about the locations he was possibly frequenting,” said Herb, including the location where he was spotted in northwest Forest Grove (defined as everything north of Pacific Avenue and west of Cedar Street).

An off-duty Washington County Sheriff's Office corporal on his way home from work “noticed Stanek outside of one of the locations being watched, smoking a cigarette” and notified FBI and Forest Grove officers, said Herb.

FBI agents then “watched the location and reported that the suspect was getting into the referenced vehicle and was leaving the scene,” Herb said. FGPD officers ended up stopping the car as Stanek drove down Council Street.

While confirming his identity, Herb said, “an FGPD officer noticed a gun case in the car and Stanek admitted that he had a gun holstered to his hip.”

Stanek did not have a concealed-carry permit, but the holstered gun was apparently in view and he also disclosed it to the FGPD officer. He was not charged with violating any gun laws.

"The key here is whether the gun was concealed or not," Herb said. "If the gun is in plain view, then open-carry laws apply.  If a gun is unloaded, it doesn’t matter and can be transported in a vehicle compartment or on person. However, a loaded weapon would require a concealed handgun permit if it was concealed and within reach of the driver. A loaded hunting rifle in the trunk — not an issue as the driver cannot access it.  A loaded weapon concealed near the front seat — now we have a problem."

As part of Stanek's release condition, officials said, he is not allowed to own, possess or control any gun or other weapon. His jury trial is set to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, in Courtroom 10A with Judge Robert E. Jones presiding.

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