The refuge occupier arrested in Mt. Vernon March 16, who threatened to shoot federal agents unless jailed, was taken into federal custody Wednesday on a charge of stealing federal property.
According to a federal grand jury indictment, Scott Alan Willingham, 49, stole cameras and related equipment worth more than $1,000. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Willingham, from Leadville, Colorado, participated in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and appears in photos and videos by taken by The Oregonian holding a camera removed from a utility pole by LaVoy Finicum at a transformer station near Burns Jan. 15.
Willingham was arrested by a Grant County Sheriff’s Office deputy the evening of March 16 in Mt. Vernon.
Dan Perry, an owner of the Blue Mountain Lodge in Mt. Vernon, said Willingham showed up at the motel office that evening, though he had not been staying there.
“He walked into the motel, into the front desk, and asked me to call 9-1-1 and have a sheriff deputy come out,” Perry said. “I asked him what it was about, and he said, ‘Well, I talked to Sheriff (Glenn) Palmer the other day. Tell them my name is Scott (Willingham), and they’ll know what it’s about.’”
After Perry called 9-1-1, he said, Willingham walked outside to the corner of Highway 395 and Highway 26 to wait for a deputy.
According to a press release from Carpenter, Willingham demanded to be taken to jail immediately and threatened to begin shooting federal law enforcement agents the following morning unless he was jailed.
Carpenter said Willingham was in possession of a Springfield Armory .308, an assault rifle-style weapon, and more than 230 rounds of ammunition. He said Willingham stated the gun belonged to Ryan Payne, who was arrested Jan. 26 in an Oregon State Police and FBI operation on Highway 395 north of Burns. When Payne was taken into custody on charges related to the occupation, Willingham said he took the gun and fled the refuge, according to Carpenter.
Willingham was originally arraigned on a felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge March 17. Carpenter said a grand jury did not indict Willingham on those charges.
It was determined, however, that Willingham had been convicted of felony crimes — larceny and taking a motor vehicle — in Michigan and Washington, so the grand jury indicted him on a class C felony charge of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Carpenter said.
Willingham was to be released on his own recognizance to enter a plea on April 28, Carpenter said, but federal authorities were waiting at the jail to take him into custody on a federal warrant before he was released by local authorities.
Carpenter said he would likely dismiss the state charges against Willingham that originated in Grant County if he was satisfied Willingham would be held accountable in the federal system.