A self-styled journalist who traveled to Oregon in early January to spread the message of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers is facing federal weapons charges in Grant County.
But a man associated with a recovered machine gun says he was surprised to see the weapon turn up in a federal investigation, noting that federal agents hadn't contacted him before or after the arrest.
Michael Emry of Boise, Idaho, was in Harney County throughout the armed occupation reporting for “The Voice Of Idaho,” a website he established with his wife, Becky Hudson, to report on self-styled militia groups.
Emry was found with a fully-automatic Browning M2 hidden in his truck and RV trailer near John Day on Friday. Emry told the FBI that he removed the serial number from the weapon before bringing it to Oregon from Idaho about a month and a half ago.
Emry also told the FBI he took the gun from Jim Weaver, his former employer, without Weaver's knowledge.
Weaver, a machinist by trade, hired Emry to work part time at his automotive business in Boise after meeting him in 2001. The 62-year-old operated a small firearms store out of his automotive shop, and has a Class 3 license to sell firearms.
Weaver told OPB that Emry did odd jobs for him, including transmission work and some cleaning. Emry also worked with firearms.
“He built some guns, but nothing real elaborate,” said Weaver.
“Mike is a naturally mechanically inclined person. He’s knowledgeable with firearms, he did odds and ends, just a little bit of everything [around the shop],” Weaver said.
But when Weaver sold his automotive shop in 2006, he said Emry went to work for different people.
“I talked to him about 8 months ago on the phone. We stayed in touch, talked once in a while. But then he moved, and I didn’t know where he went,” he said, adding that he hasn't seen Emry in person since the shop closed a decade ago.
Emry had moved to Grant County in recent months, where he and his wife established an online presence as the "Voice of Grant County." Through online videos and social media posts, the couple expressed support for Ammon Bundy and other occupiers who took over the Malheur refuge.
Weaver said he was surprised to learn Emry had his .50 caliber Browning M2 in Oregon.
“Holy s---. How did he get in the shop?" Weaver said. "I haven’t been there because we’ve been in the process of moving. I guess he could have made extra keys I don’t know about.”
Weaver said his inventory is small, but most is under lock-and-key. He said he had taken the Browning M2 out to photograph it more than a month ago, because he had considered selling it.
“It was sort of hidden, Mike must have went through some stuff, I don’t know,” Weaver said.
Weaver said he purchased the gun Feb. 6, 2001, from Diamond Dick's Pawn in Boise. He said it was in pieces and the barrel wasn’t with it, so it was non-operational.
Federal agents tested the weapon after they arrested Emry, and confirmed it was in working order at that time.
“He definitely took the gun — no question about that," Weaver said. "Everything else is where it's supposed to be, I checked the place. I have the serial number and my paperwork and all that, but I’m going, ‘Holy cow.’”
The FBI charged Emry with unlawful possession of a machine gun not registered to him and unlawful possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Emry has an initial appearance in federal court Monday.
Weaver said he hadn't heard from the FBI as of Saturday morning, but expected someone from the agency would be in touch.
“This hit me like a ton of bricks, he was kind of a roamer and stuff. First off, him stealing from me, just blows me a way," Weaver said. "I tried to be somewhat of a friend to him.”