Burns Chronicles No 44 – Mark McConnell

Burns Chronicles No 44
Mark McConnell

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Gary Hunt
Outpost of Freedom
November 25, 2016

I first interviewed Mark McConnell back in August 2015 That interview was in regard to Parris Frazier and his effort to steal cartel drugs and sell them (Arizona Misfits – A Bad Operation Gone Worse).  McConnell seemed to have an extraordinary knowledge of some of the facts surrounding that incident, which was quite useful in researching for that story.  It never occurred to me, at the time, that this knowledge would have been extremely beneficial to law enforcement, leading up to the bust.

The Criminal Complaint that lead to the arrest of Frazier and his cohorts began with the government putting an undercover employee (UCE) in a position provide access to Frazier to make the government’s plans to set Frazier up for the bust.  This scenario omits what led up to the bringing in the UCE, so there was a substantial part of the story that was missing.  It is quite possible that they chose not to mention a confidential human source (CHS) that provided the background that led to the setup of Frazier.  Or, possibly, any such report was filed on form 302, an “Investigation Report”.

Let’s move forward to the events that occurred in Burns, Oregon, this past January.  During the trial, the government, for whatever reason, outed McConnell as a CHS.  In every other instance of a CHS being involved in spying on the occupiers, this would include nine who were at the Refuge and six who were not, the government has taken pains to conceal their identity.

This would lead one to conclude that they just wanted to wipe their hands clean of any association with Mark McConnell — to make him an outcast in both the government and patriot sides.  What other reason could exist for intentionally expose just this single informant?  Could it be his arrogance and air of superiority in dealing with his handler?

Many had determined that McConnell was an informant, early on.  However, in an effort to find verification, I have interviewed McConnell 3 more times since LaVoy Finicum was murdered on January 26.  The first was on January 30, as he was driving back to Arizona after having his vehicle returned to him.  My purpose was simply to find out what happened from the first stop to his release, that evening.

That interview was much different from the video that was posted on YouTube where he talked about LaVoy rushing the Oregon State Police (OSP) officers.  He had learned his lesson and wouldn’t claim that he saw Ryan get out of the LaVoy’s truck, only what Ryan told him, when they were placed on the ground together.  And, he made clear that all he would say was what he saw, or heard.  This interview was straightforward.  The details he gave were consistent with what has subsequently been confirmed by others.

My next interview, on May 16, was an effort to find something that would support the accusations that he was an informant.  Now, obviously, getting such a “confession” is nearly impossible.  However, often clues come out that would support such a conclusion.  McConnell said that there was a meeting on the Saturday, before the shooting, Brandon Curtiss, McConnell, Booda (Brian Cavalier) and Ammon had a meeting and Curtiss and McConnell explained that was over three hundred FBI agents in the area.  Then, the night before the shooting, he had tried to talk the people out of going to the meeting at John Day.  However, he was willing to drive to John Day and make sure that Ammon was in his Jeep.

On October 10, after McConnell was outed as an informant, I spoke with him, again.  The only interesting point in this interview was the McConnell said that the occupation was a “criminal enterprise”.  A rather interesting statement from one who participated to the extent that he did.  This would raise a question of motivation as to why he participated in such an enterprise, at least as an accessory, unless he had a reason, and immunity, to do so.  Here is what he told me (from my notes of the conversation):

He spent three nights at the Refuge, the second trip.  He could not find a motel room.  He did not agree with the occupation.  He called it lies and bullshit.  He also claimed that Payne and Joker J (Jason Blomgren) had given me [Hunt] money to secure supplies, listing pipes and pipe caps, stating, “That’s not what the statements I have found said.”

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Heck, I was not there until January 24, late in the afternoon.  I am somewhat surprised that he tried to implicate me in something that, as best I know, never occurred — with anybody having been asked you procure such “supplies”.

He met Melvin Lee about a year ago on an Arizona Border Recon operation.  McConnell was going up to the Refuge to get Kristen and her baby out of the Refuge.  Taking over a Bird Refuge is the dumbest thing he had ever seen.

Clearly his arrogance and his attitude toward the occupation of the Refuge, is clear.  So, why did he go there, and then return towards the end of the initial occupation?  It appears that there is a motive — to do what he can to stoop to the “dumbest thing he had ever seen”.

In response to my query as to whether he was an informant:

He stated that he was waiting for the OSP and FBI to tell him what his involvement was.  He has seen no statements, no affidavits and has yet to see where he was paid.

When asked, directly, if he received any payment or expenses for going to the Refuge, he said “No” and claimed that everything that he spent was on his Cabellas credit card.

Well, that Cabellas credit card would be the receipts that were necessary for reimbursement of his expenses.

I asked him if he would sign an affidavit stating that he received no money and had no communication with the FBI or any government agency.  He stated that he was taking legal action and could not provide an affidavit.

I couldn’t even get him to swear, in an affidavit, that he was not an informant.  So, we had no positive proof that he was an informant, except the testimony by an OSP officer that did not even know what agency McConnell was working for.  In addition, he would provide no positive proof (affidavit) that he was not an informant.  However, it would seem that if he were contemplating a lawsuit, the affidavit would be a part of the complaint.

When I obtained access to the “CHS Reporting Documents” (form 1023), it was simply a matter of matching dates, statement, etc., to determine which of those reports were from McConnell.  This required communication with those who were at the Refuge, though not still in custody, to verify certain things that became key to unlocking the necessary proof of McConnell’s role as an informant.

Let’s look at what was reported by McConnell, even well before the occupation on January 2, 2016.  In the reports, “(omitted)” indicates that I have removed personal information.  “XXXX” indicates redacted portions.

His first report was on December 18, 2015, when Ryan Payne apprised him that there was a still hope of preventing the imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond.

Ryan Payne is trying to get ten “skilled or military trained” militia members to join him at the Hammond ranch in Oregon. Three of these individuals are reportedly coming from Arizona. Based upon a conversations with Payne and others, the CHS believes these three individuals are Blaine Cooper, Jon Ritzheimer, and Mike Bailey. It was unclear what Payne wanted to accomplish once he had these individuals with him in Oregon.

Shortly after the occupation of the Refuge, on January 4, 2016, he gave his first report of the goings on outside of the Refuge.  The report deals with the situation up in Burns, probably staying at the Silver Spur Motel.

Some of the command personal at the refuge (Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Pete Santilli) are staying at the Silver Spur Motel in Burns, OR at night and staying at the compound during the day. O’Shaughnessy is currently using telephone number (928) (omitted).

All of the motels in Burns, OR are currently booked

We know that he arrived at the gate the next afternoon, as a text message was received from the front gate at the Refuge, which reads, “Tue, Jan 5, 6:23 PM – This is (omitted) from AZ. Mark McConnell is at the gate he needs someone to let him in, tell Ryan“.  He was relying on Ryan Payne to grant him access.  This is his first report from inside of the Refuge:

 

Due to Michael Meyers (aka Lewis Arthur from Veterans on Patrol) stating that he is going to physically remove Ritzheimer from the refuge (to save him from himself and possible PTSD induced violence), security at the refuge has been tightened and they are no longer allowing people to come and go freely. Individuals wanting to enter are met at the vehicle barrier and vetted before they can come in. Supplies being dropped off at the refuge have to be dropped off at the barrier and then transported inside by the militia members.

Everyone is very amped up right now putting on their plate carriers and grabbing rifles. They say they just got credible Intel that a law enforcement raid was coming. Another reason they are on high alert is because Ryan Payne and Joe O’Shaughnessy did a recon and followed law enforcement from the airport to the school.

There is a large grader blocking the road and they moved a front end loader up to support the grader. There is a fire tower directly behind they entrance that is manned by two individuals.

The Oath Keepers put out a message saying that a National Guard Special Forces unit had been tasked for the standoff. They also said they should expect Delta and FBI HRT to be involved also. This further escalated the tension at the refuge.

There is only one woman left on the compound (a girlfriend of one of the guys) and all of the kids are gone or staying in town.

LaVoy Finicum is setting up a makeshift tent to stay in near the entrance.

Some of the militia members have .308s but the majority have .223 ARs.

Payne’s plan in the event of an LE assault is to bog down the assault at the entrance and then flank LE from the rear. He is very cold and calloused when discussing possible militia casualties. He said he knows the two guys in the tower will be shot right off the bat so he isn’t getting after them about noise and light discipline. The CHS believes Payne wants to goad LE into action, get his followers to fight and die in the fighting, and then have the leadership go out toward the end as martyrs.

The above report was made the same evening of McConnell’s arrival.  Rather quick work on his part.  The deceptive role of OathKeepers is explained in OathKeepers vs. Militia – Part III.  This explains the heightened alert status on that day.  Thus, McConnell, who had been invited up to the Refuge by Payne still had to get approval to enter.  According to McConnell, he never did enter the Refuge that evening, that Ryan Payne came out to the gate and then went to McConnell’s Jeep where they carried out their conversation.

The following day, January 6, 2016, after McConnell had a little time to see, or hear, what was going on at the Refuge, he provided the following report:

Ammon Bundy’s HQ is set up in the building labeled Recreation/Maintainable in an upstairs office that appears to be the facility supervisor’s office. Several individuals are using this office to store their long guns, vests, and ammunition when not being utilized. Everyone else sleeps in the bunk houses east of there.

Shawna Cox (from UT, author of a book about Cliven Bundy) is at the refuge.

The following vehicles are on site being used by militia members:

– Washington tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) Kelso, WA)

– Texas tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) N Richland Hills, TX)

– California tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) Yuba City, CA)

The militia is removing gasoline and diesel fuel from the storage tanks on site in order to refuel their personal vehicles.

The local ranchers that are part of the Committee of Safety (about 6 of them) told Ammon Bundy that it was time for the militia to leave and they would carry on the fight for the land on their own.

On January 6, 2016, most of the individuals on the refuge were walking around unarmed (or concealed). Ryan Payne is open carrying an FN .40 Cal pistol (CHS believes it is an FNX) and Ritzheimer has a Sig Sauer .380 pocket pistol (unknown model, single stack magazine).

Michael Meyers (aka Lewis Arthur) has arrived at the refuge with two other members of his group Veterans On Patrol. He has set up a GP medium tent across from the refuge entrance. One of the members is a large heavy set individual wearing a leather jacket with patches of a Christian motorcycle club.

Members of an Oregon militia group stopped by the refuge but did not stay.

The CHS said most of the individuals on site were “not fighters.”

Brian Cavalier (Buddha) left the refuge last night when everyone was talking about an LE raid because he felt defenseless with only a handgun. He has not returned since and neither Payne nor Ammon seem to know where he is.

One of the individuals on the refuge is named Dillon (LNU).

By the way this report is presented, it was probably a telephonic report.  The next report, on January 7, 2016, provides additional intelligence on the goings on at the Refuge.  This report appears to have been an email report, since photos were attached.

There are no roving patrols at this time that the CHS is aware of. There is heavy equipment blocking the east and west entrances to the facility. These are watched by guards stationed inside vehicles to stay warm. Sometimes there is a second vehicle there during shift change or to bring food/supplies. The main entrance has two vehicles for security. Blaine Cooper and Jon Ritzheimer are usually in one of these vehicles.

The CHS heard that it was Blaine Cooper, not Ryan Payne that got into the fight with Meyers last night.

One of the individuals on site is named Dillon (LNU).

CHS says that O’Shaughnessy is still at the Silver Spur motel. The CHS does not believe O’Shaughnessy ever came onto the refuge, he just comes up to the front gates.

As of 12:00 pm, Ritzheimer and one other person are pulling security at the front entrance.

The night scope is currently mounted to an AR-15 that is in Ammon’s room with about 5-6 other long guns. One other guy said he had night vision with him, but it shut off and he can’t get it working again.

There is no one guarding the west entrance anymore, they just have heavy equipment blocking it. The two guards at the east entrance each have an AR-15 and handgun.

The leader of an Oregon militia group that is on site is driving a blue Dodge pickup bearing Oregon tag: (omitted).

Another vehicle on site is bearing Idaho tag: (omitted).

XXXX The CHS said that rumors about an impending raid are constant and people are starting to get burned out by it.

Eric Parker and 8 members of his militia group showed up at the refuge tonight. They said they brought a .416 Barrett, but the CHS didn’t see it.

One of the militia members onsite (picture attached) owns or works at the Ehmer Welding Company in Irrigon, OR. His phone numbers are 541-(omitted) and 541-(omitted).

Also attached is a picture of Joe (LNU) that was driving the vehicle with California tag (omitted) (Registered to Joseph (omitted)).

Attached are pictures of the tower, the kitchen area and the supply stash.

Attached is a picture of a radio being used with the frequencies. The radio is a Baofeng UV-5RV2+. They are transmitting on 154.475 and receiving on 426.145.

Interesting that he notes that Joe O’Shaughnessy did not stay at the Refuge.  The FBI, in their first press conference on January 27 stated that only those who spent the night at the Refuge would be charged.  Joe was charged in the Indictment, so I wonder why McConnell makes this comment.

The next day, on January 8, 2016, we have the following, which also appears to be an email report (not third party presentation):

Several people left the refuge last night and are not expected to return. Because of this, they are letting in only hard core supporters. The meeting at 9:00 am turned out to be a general planning meeting for activities at the refuge like guard shifts and scheduling. There were about 12-14 people at that meeting with four more on security. It is possible that there were a few sleeping as well.

The press release at 11:00 am is now going to be where the plans and demands are laid out.

Ritzheimer is not participating much in any leadership decisions. Ammon Bundy is handling the overall strategy and dealing with the press. Payne and Patrick are the one trying to keep the militia together and keeping people from leaving.

Eric Parker and his guys showed up at the refuge on January 8, 2016.

Below are three more plates observed on the refuge on 1/8/16:

-WA tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) Tukwila, WA 98188). Believed to belong to an individual named Will (LNU) that is currently guarding the front entrance with Ritzheimer.

-ID tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) Nampa, ID 83651)

-Utah tag (omitted) (Registered to (omitted) Eagle Mountain, UT 84005)

The next report, on January 16, 2016, leaves over a week out of McConnell’s reporting.  He was absent from the Refuge during this period.

Both men [Ammon and Ryan Payne] believe that the majority of the townspeople are on their side, but Ammon continues to make an active effort to court the public. He is extremely charismatic and his actions like going to the barber and out to lunch before heading to back to Idaho are calculated like a politician. The sense that the community is behind the occupation is exasperated by the fact that, despite several contacts, none of the occupiers have been cited by police in town. Even more recently there have been talk from local residents to defy the local government and cut the chains of closed public spaces. There are also several local residents that have joined the occupation.

In terms of who is allowed onto the refuge, Ammon and Payne are extremely inclusive. They are able to take people from a variety of ideologies and move them toward their own. They assign duties to prevent the more volatile occupants of the refuge from getting in trouble. These lower ranking occupants sleep in the “bunkhouse.”

Payne and Ammon are dying for communication from the Federal Government. Payne does not view the FBI as either good or bad. They are merely the necessary other side of the dialogue that is needed to move us down the path to our future.

The planning for the occupation started in November. Between November and January.

When Mendenbach took one of the government vehicles to Safeway, Melissa Cooper was driving the other vehicle. Everyone in the refuge thought it was stupid of Mendenbach to take the vehicle and some people found it funny that he would get himself arrested in that fashion.

Inside of the refuge, Payne sleeps in the most vulnerable place by design. The tower is always manned by at least two people, but this includes a couple that use it as a location to have sex. Scotty LNU had a vision device and Ryan Bundy brought a second on his most recent trip back.

There was a very short report, filed on January 19, 2016, and appears to be a telephonic report:

Jon Ritzheimer is asking for individuals to bring snow camouflage when they come to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ryan Payne is requesting Israeli gas masks.

What is damning about this report is a texting conversation that McConnell and Ritzheimer had the day before the report was filed.  This is from that conversation:

Mon, Jan 18, 10:52 AM

MM – Jon do you need any gear or supplies

JR – Snow camo would be cool.  Not a need just a want.  I have driven all over Oregon looking for some.  lol

JR – I might just order on line.

JR – Here is my address.
General Mail
Jon Ritzheimer
Burns, OR 97720

MM – I will look down here, probably cabellas has it.

Wed, Jan 20, 2:30 PM

MM – I’m heading north in the morning

JR – See you when you get here.

McConnell says that he is leaving for Burns on January 21.  He returns on January 22, 2016, at the request of Ryan Payne (confirmed with Payne).  This is an email report.

Cavalier is staying in building #1 (pic attached) with his girlfriend Melissa Laughter.

The computers that used to be in the office Ammon is using as his quarters have been moved (pic attached).

Attached is a picture of an AK-47 rifle being kept in the kitchen near Ammon’s office area.

Attached are two pictures showing the railroad ties and concrete barriers near the main entrance. The militia members are calling these “fighting positions.”

Tomorrow morning at 0600, Ammon, Cavalier, and three others are going to the Hammond ranch for a meeting.

There are approximately 30 individuals on the refuge today.

Joseph O’Shaughnessy is still staying at the Silver Spur, but spends time at the refuge. Many people have taken the license plates off of their POV’s. The following license plates were still on vehicles on the refuge:

OR- (omitted); ID- (omitted); UT – (omitted); CO – (omitted); CA – (omitted); AZ- (omitted); NC- (omitted); OR – (omitted)

McConnell updates the tactical information and provides a continuing list of who is present at the Refuge.

The next report is January 23, 2016:

The militias mixed some of the potassium permanganate with glycerin. Apparently someone thought that is how they could make an explosive. They believe there is dynamite on the facility due to an article they found about using dynamite to kill carp in the lake. They think they have found out where it is stored, but have been able to access it yet.

Ammon is going to go to Idaho to see his family either today or tomorrow. Due to a conversation he had with FBI negotiators, Ammon believes the facility will come under siege on Monday. Because of this, he wants to see his family and get some of the money that has been donated before the siege starts. Supposedly, donations to the occupiers is all going to Ammon’s wife in Idaho.

A family consisting of a woman with 8 kids showed up at the refuge last night. They are from Kansas and we’re at the Bundy ranch in April 20, 2014 (believed to be Sharp family).

Attached is a photo that shows where the explosives/fire making materials are being stored (circled in red). Also circled (in green) is the building where Sheriff Ward’s cousins came and talked to the militia members saying that Sheriff Ward is corrupt.

Attached is a picture of a document that contains personal information of the members of the Harney County Committee of Safety. Also attached is a page showing Ammon’s schedule.

The following is another license plate that was observed on the refuge: ID – (omitted)

Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, and Arizona militia member Mark McConnell, are leaving the refuge tomorrow morning at 0600 to go to Ammon’s house in Idaho. This was prompted by a meeting Ammon had earlier in the day with Brandon Curtis, Todd Engel, and others, in which Ammon was told that there was a large, sudden build up of FBI in Burns. Because of this, and Ammon’s appointment to talk to FBI negotiators on Monday, Ammon and many others on the refuge believe that a siege will begin on Monday.

Attached is a picture of the main hallway in the chow hall leading to where many individuals are staying.

No evidence was ever provided at trial that suggests that explosive were made.  The veracity of this portion of the report is questionable — perhaps rumor.

Note that first he mentions Ammon’s trip.  Later, he reports that “Arizona militia member Mark McConnell” is also going.  Is this an attempt to cover his role?  Perhaps the next report will help us understand that this was really McConnell writing about himself in the second person, rather than using “CHS”, just in case…

The final report from inside the Refuge comes on January 24, 2016, just a few days away from the ambush on US Highway 395.

Ammon Bundy is in Boise, ID visiting his family today. Tomorrow he plans on returning to the refuge and is bringing his family with him. The GPS coordinates to Ammon’s house outside of Boise are 43.82721, -116.52850. Ammon admires Ryan Payne’s knowledge of the Constitution and his drive and determination. However, Ammon does not trust Payne much. This is because both of them feel that God is driving them to push for reform; however, their differing religious beliefs prevent them from coming together completely.

Interesting that he reports the latitude and longitude of Ammon’s house.  He did not report them before Ammon left, but he reported them before Ammon returned, which means he probably acquired them while at Ammon’s house.

Probably anxiety prevented subsequent reports, perhaps knowing that the ambush that was to occur on the 26th, on the way to a meeting in Grant, Oregon, was forthcoming.  Perhaps he went back to phone communications, though if he did, they are not included in the reports.

In an interview with Mark shortly after the murder of LaVoy Finicum, he provided his version of what happened that afternoon.  Much of what he told me was contained in “Ambush“.  However,

In what appears to be McConnell’s final report, on April 21, 2016, he has been posed some questions regarding identification of individuals involved in the

1) Identify all individuals who were observed operating heavy machinery at the MNWR and when.
Duane Ehmer and one other elderly guy, name unknown.

2) Identify the individuals who built the bunkhouse road.
Duane Ehmer

3) Identify any individuals who assisted, supervised, or instructed individuals to build the road.
Ryan Bundy instructed how to do the road in order to make travel shorter to the chow hall.

4) What discussions were there about the Paiute Tribe? Who was present?
LaVoy Finicum, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Anthony Bosworth, and Melissa Laughter all talked about the tribe, but the CHS did not hear much during the conversations.

5) What discussions were there about the artifacts stored at the MNWR? Who was present?
LaVoy Finicum mentioned the artifacts and suggested contacting the tribe that the artifacts belonged to.

6) Did any militia members express personal interests related to artifact collecting?
No one seemed very interested in them.

7) Did individuals present at the MNWR read The Burns Times Herald as well as the MNWR pamphlets pertaining to fishing, hunting, protecting artifacts, wildlife viewing, etc?
Unknown

8) Who dug the trench which was used to dump trash?
Unknown

9) Who dug the two trenches on Jan 27th and why?
CHS was told that Jeff Banta did the digging because Anthony Bosworth told everyone they needed fighting positions.

10) Who instructed, assisted, supervised the digging of the two trenches on Jan 27th?
Same as #9 above.

So, we see that McConnell was still working for the feds by helping to identify people that he might recognize from pictures.  They were trying to identify any who has “disturbed native artifacts”.

After having prepared a draft of this article, I contacted McConnell to see if he could refute anything.  He continued to claim he was not an informant, though he did clarify what transpired at the gate on January 5.  During a review of the comments made in the 1023 forms, he often said, “I never knew that”, though on two occasions he said, “I didn’t say that.”

Now, at the time of this article, McConnell has invested himself into the Arizona Border Recon (ABR), run by Tim “Nailer” Foley, a former member of the Operation Mutual Defense Advisory Board.  Foley resigned from the Advisory Board shortly before the occupation began.

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