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Washington County sheriff reports on deputies' role
18 of them, including the sheriff, provided aid to Harney County during armed occupation.
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett says his deputies were tested after his Harney County colleague sought mutual aid during the recent armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon.
Garrett said some of his deputies helped a Harney County deputy run a criminal check on a wanted individual sitting in a bar in Burns.
It was a crowded bar, the biggest bar in Burns and full of out-of-state anti-federal people who had plenty to drink by then, Garrett told Washington County commissioners Tuesday.
It really drew upon our deputies ability to communicate. They did some of the best talking. They had a very spirited discussion about the role of the federal government and law enforcement.
At the end of that contact, surrounded by a bunch of intoxicated anti-federalists, they all shook hands and left in peace.
Commissioner Dick Schouten: It sounds like something out of a Western.
Nearly all of Oregons 36 counties, including a total of 18 deputies from Washington County, provided help to overwhelmed local agencies at the request of Harney County Sheriff David Ward, District Attorney Tim Colahan and County Judge (chief executive) Steve Grasty.
Garrett said, however, deputies were not involved in the Jan. 26 traffic stop that resulted in the shooting death of Robert LaVoy Finicum or the Feb. 11 surrender of the remaining four holdouts that ended the 41-day occupation.
We had no role in the enforcement actions, he said. Our mission was very public to help the community and talk to everybody.
According to a recent statewide public opinion survey, more than two-thirds of the participants agreed with the law enforcement response.
There was not as much bloodshed as there could have been, Commissioner Greg Malinowski said.
We were trying to keep the lid on an explosive scenario, Garrett said.
Garrett said most policing tasks by his deputies focused on Burns and other areas well away from the refuge, which is about 30 miles southeast of Burns.
Among their duties were responding to traffic crashes, recovering vehicles, providing security at news conferences and community meetings, investigating a mysterious rash of deer kills along a highway, and dealing with harassment complaints at the Burns Paiute Reservation.
After the tribe spoke out against the occupation, they faced very pointed harassment, Garrett said. Burning tires would appear on the reservation in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.
Deputies went as teams for stretches of five to seven days, some shifts lasting as long as 18 hours, and often worked in the cold.
Asked by one of the commissioners about Glenn Palmer, the sheriff of neighboring Grant County who met with some of the occupiers and who now is under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for an undisclosed complaint Garrett said only, That sheriff did not see eye to eye with the rest of law enforcement.
The Oregon State Sheriffs Association issued a statement criticizing the occupation.
Like all of the other local participating agencies, Garrett said he is seeking reimbursement for deputies expenses estimated at $64,000 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. The requests have support from Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon congressional delegation.
Costs include staff time, fuel and some lodging, although Garrett much of the latter was picked up by Harney County and the state sheriffs association.
I am confident we will get reimbursed, he said. Its just not as fast as I hoped.