A federal indictment released Thursday charges with conspiracy sixteen people involved with the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. But it doesn’t include dozens of people who were also part of the occupation. Many of them have scattered across the U.S., changed phone numbers or gone silent on social media.
“Most people aren’t going home after what happened,” said California resident Terri Linnell.
Linnell is referring to the Jan. 26 shooting death of LaVoy Finicum having unnerved the remaining militants. “That would put their families at risk. They’re going to wait and see what shakes down.”
Linnell served as a cook for the militants and took part in the occupation for more than two weeks. She said she’s not worried about being arrested. “I didn’t do anything at all. I mean, what are they going to do? Charge me for being in the kitchen? Are they going to bust me for cooking?”
She left the occupation shortly before the Finicum’s death and has been traveling unimpeded between California and Utah.
Texan Scott Willingham shares Linnell’s unworried attitude. He left the refuge just before the FBI checkpoints were established on Jan. 27.
“If they’re going to make up charges and lock us up, I’m not going to worry about it between now and then,” said Willingham. “Because they’re wrong. And what they’re going to do to me is going to be wrong. And every day I’ve got between now and then I can live my life like I’m right.”
Gillingham stayed in Burns after leaving the refuge. He was one of several refuge occupiers seen Monday in Burns protesting the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum.
Willingham said he hoped the FBI would let him communicate with the remaining four militants at the refuge headquarters because he felt he would be able to convince them to leave. He said he was looking over his shoulder for the first couple of days after the initial arrests, waiting for the FBI to come for him.
The indictment includes 16 names and could be amended in the future to include more charges and to list additional co-conspirators.
One of the occupiers, who gave only her first name “Diane,” was relieved that she isn’t currently listed among the indicted. “That’s a big relief. I’ve been kind of stressing,” she said. “But if it comes down to me going to prison, I will have no regrets.”
One of the public faces of the occupation, Blaine Cooper, disappeared shortly after the initial arrests of the Bundys and others. Cooper was known for posting dramatic video updates from inside the refuge. He had also claimed that Arizona Department of Child Safety attempted to take his kids into custody while he and his wife, Melissa, were in Oregon, because of his involvement with the occupation.
Both Blaine and Melissa Cooper have gone silent since the arrests, except when Blaine Cooper called into a conservative talk radio show on Jan. 29. Blaine told the radio host he checks daily to see if a warrant is out for his arrest. “If they tried to do anything to me, I’m going to go the way LaVoy did,” he said on the show.
The Coopers’ whereabouts are now unknown.
Several other occupiers who have not been indicted are no longer answering phones, or their numbers are disconnected.
All of the occupiers OPB spoke with who are not currently included in the indictment said that even if they face charges, they don’t regret their participation in the occupation.
“The only hope we have is to strengthen our resolve,” said Linnell. “We achieved waking up a nation.”