FBI agent testifies about arrest of Oregon standoff defendant Darryl Thorn at Redmond Super 8 Motel

Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive  January 27, 2017

Oregon standoff defendant Darryl Thorn, arrested by a team of FBI SWAT officers in the breakfast bar of a Redmond Super 8 Motel, claimed the agents used excessive force by slapping the coffee cup out of his hand and taking him to the ground.

Thorn also wanted a judge to suppress statements he made to agents on the drive to their Bend office.

During the ride, Thorn said he could have fought off the agents with his training from Russian special forces if he hadn't been outnumbered, FBI agents noted in their reports.

On Friday, FBI Special Agent Troy Nicoll testified about the arrest.

Nicoll was riding in an FBI surveillance van that pulled up to the front of the motel when the agents got word Thorn was in the lobby about 9:05 a.m. on Feb. 11, the day that the final four holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge surrendered to authorities after a 41-day occupation.

"Darryl?'' Nicoll asked as he approached Thorn in the continental breakfast area. Five other agents entered the lobby as well.

Thorn looked at Nicoll. "FBI, you're under arrest,'' Nicoll told him.

Thorn turned around holding a cup of coffee in his right hand.

Nicoll grabbed Thorn's left arm while FBI agent Jason Newport slapped the coffee cup out of Thorn's hand for "officer safety,'' Nicoll testified.

Asked by federal prosecutor Geoffrey Barrow why, Nicoll explained that coffee is a hot drink and could be thrown in the agents' direction.

"Like into my face,'' blurted Thorn, who was listening to the hearing by phone from Washington state.

Thorn was scheduled to fly to Portland for the hearing but missed a ride to the airport, his lawyer, Marc Friedman, told the judge.

At the motel, the agents tried to gain control of Thorns arms, but he reached toward his waistband, Nicoll testified. They took Thorn to the ground. One agent put a knee into his back to handcuff his hands behind his back.

Agents searched Thorn and found no weapon.

They raised Thorn to his feet, and he was bleeding from a 1-inch cut to his left eyebrow. Friedman presented FBI photos of the injury to the court.

Nicoll testified that he was surprised to see the injury but suspected it occurred when the agents took Thorn to the floor.

Thorn was placed against a wall and claimed his arrest was illegal and that the FBI "only had jurisdiction within ten square miles of Washington, D.C,'' according to FBI agent Daniel Baringer's report.

During the approximately 15-minute ride in a six-passenger van to the FBI Bend office, Thorn told agents there are thousands of members of his movement who are educated to rise up and replace each other, according to the agents' reports.

"You guys are going to have your hands full,'' the FBI reports quoted Thorn saying.

Thorn made some remark about "an eye for any eye'' and claimed the agents "took one of ours.'' Thorn said he was trained by a member of the Russian Spetsnaz and could have fought them off if it hadn't been six against one, the FBI said.

FBI agents had medical workers respond to their Bend office, but Thorn declined any treatment for his injury, Nicoll said.

Thorn, who is out of custody on pretrial release and living in the Spokane area, is one of seven defendants set for trial next month. He's pleaded not guilty to the felony charges of conspiracy to impede federal employees at the wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon through intimidation, threats or force, and possession of a firearm in a federal facility.

He's also pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of trespass and two counts of tampering with vehicles and equipment at the refuge, including a government front-end loader and an all-terrain vehicle.

Thorn's lawyer argued that the agents' actions were excessive and intended to "incite a reaction'' from his client, and that's exactly what they achieved.

Barrow countered that agents acted appropriately. Thorn was defiant from the start, questioning the agents' authority and reached with his hands toward his waistband, Barrow said.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown agreed with the government, finding no facts to support Thorn's position and denied his motion to suppress his statements.

She noted that even during Friday's court proceeding, Thorn "is one to speak up'' without any prodding.

-- Maxine Bernstein


Posted in Court, Maulher, News.

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