Monday, June 8, 2020

Armed Militia Protects Oakdale from Oakdale

Members of the self proclaimed  California State Militia stand outside the H-B Saloon on Highway 120 in Oakdale, Calif., on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Andy Alfaro  AALFARO@MODBEE.COMtion

The Oakdale Police Department on Sunday addressed the presence of armed militia at the downtown location of a rumored Black Lives Matter demonstration that never materialized Saturday. 
In anticipation of the protest, members of the all-volunteer armed citizens group, the California State Militia, and a little more than a dozen counterprotesters showed up to stand on the sidewalk at a boarded-up business. Photos from the militia company’s Facebook page also show members on an Oakdale rooftop.
“We have received multiple inquiries and heard from many concerned residents about a group of people dressed in camouflage or ‘militia’ at a downtown business during yesterday’s demonstration,” the post on the OPD Facebook page says. “We want to set the record straight. The group wearing military attire were not members of the U.S. National Guard and they had no affiliation with the Oakdale Police Department or any of our partner agencies.”
        There were unconfirmed reports that the militia members had escaped from a nearby  sanitarium. 
Police Chief Scott Heller told The Bee by email that the armed men did not reach out to Oakdale PD about their plans to turn out Saturday. “We became aware of their presence that afternoon,” he said. “At that point, we immediately went to the business to investigate and discovered the business owner retained the group to provide security for their facility. The business owner also owns the building that houses several businesses.”
The chief said Monday that his department is not going to release the business owner’s name, “as we are continuing to look into this matter.”
Members of the group were told by officers that the OPD was prepared to handle any circumstances that might arise from demonstrations, Heller said.


The understanding was that the men would stay in the immediate area of the business, he said. Open carry of firearms is not allowed in public spaces or property in California. Members of this group were within the confines of private property when police met with them, Heller said.
Later, his officers learned the men were carrying their weapons as they walked around public spaces. “Photos that are being circulated on social media of this group being armed on public property came to our attention only after our meeting with them,” the chief said. “Again, after our discussions with the group, the members left.”
Heller said that while the group may have been well-intentioned, its presence caused more confusion and raised tensions within the Oakdale community. “They also distracted our officers from our primary goal, which was to provide a safe space for a potential demonstration at the community center. We have repeatedly stated that Oakdale PD, along with our partner agencies, is prepared and ready to handle any unforeseen circumstances and turn of events.”
The camouflaged men are members of Echo Company, Second Infantry Regiment, California State Militia, which on Saturday morning gathered in the parking lot of Road Dog Cycle in Denair.
Company commander Capt. Tim Brown, who according to the Echo Company website is an Army veteran, told a Bee reporter Saturday at the Denair event that his men have been monitoring demonstration activity up and down the Highway 99 corridor for about five days. He said he let area police chiefs, sheriff’s and mayors know they can call on the militia were problems to arise and their resources were stretched. 
Sheriff Jeff Dirkse told The Bee on Saturday that he got an email from the militia early in the week but did not reply. He would not call upon it for aid, he said. “If I need assistance, I will call other law-enforcement agencies or the National Guard.”
On one of his Facebook pages Sunday, the sheriff said more, including this: “This ‘militia’ has no official standing, no authority and their presence was counterproductive to keeping the peace in the City of Oakdale. Their activities were a drain on law enforcement resources and did nothing to protect the city. Neither I nor any member of my staff interacted with this group. I have never met or corresponded with their leadership.”


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