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Testimony wraps up in first Bunkerville standoff trial

Two months of testimony in the first Bunkerville standoff trial concluded Monday with a defendant’s dramatic assertion that authorities sat in foxholes waiting to shoot protesters who arrived at the site where federal agents for days had been rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle.

The accusation was among the last statements Idaho resident Eric Parker made to the jury before he stepped down from the witness stand late morning, after a day and a half spent testifying in his own defense. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in the case against Parker and five other men charged as “gunmen” in the 2014 armed standoff.

Parker, a 33-year-old father of two, is the only defendant who decided to put himself in the line of courtroom crossfire by testifying on his own behalf. He controlled the narrative for hours on Friday while his defense lawyer questioned him. But on Monday, a federal prosecutor pressed him about his decisions the day of the standoff, as well as his social media postings in the lead-up to and aftermath of his trip to Bunkerville.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson’s line of questioning reflected an attempt to suggest to jurors that Parker was not truthful in testifying that he never planned to use violence and only raised his gun to defend women and children against a threatening law enforcement presence.

On April 12, 2014, Parker was photographed in the prone position, pointing a long gun through a crack in the jersey barrier of a highway bridge that overlooked a dried-up wash where protesters were face-to-face with Bureau of Land Management agents. Protesters assembled on the bridge and in the wash that day at rancher Bundy’s behest.

Dickinson played a video of Parker and others milling around on the highway overpass as protesters gathered. He referenced the emotion Parker displayed during his testimony last week.

“It appeared you were getting emotional and were crying about your time on the bridge. … You’re not crying in this video,” Dickinson said.

“I was angry,” Parker contended.

The standoff ended when federal authorities, who were outnumbered, released the cattle and left Bunkerville. Dickinson asked Parker about an exchange that occurred after authorities left, when protesters returned to the so-called militia camp they set up near Bundy’s ranch.

“Were you sitting next to someone who asked Siri, ‘What’s the last time the federal government backed down?’”

“Yes sir,” Parker replied.

“And what came up on Siri?”

“A picture of me.”

The photo of Parker on the bridge went viral after the standoff, and online followers dubbed him the “Bundy Sniper.”

Dickinson referenced Parker’s social media postings after the shooting to suggest to jurors that he was proud of that title.

The standoff occurred after the Clark County sheriff announced at a morning rally that federal authorities decided to cease their cattle impoundment operation.

Protesters say they went to the wash to watch cows get released, not to threaten and intimidate federal agents. Parker maintained that was his intention, but he acknowledged the crowd of hundreds of protesters may have misunderstood the sheriff’s announcement.

But, he said with an air of defiance: “What the sheriff didn’t say is, I’d like you to not go over there because there’s a lot of people wearing combat gear sitting in foxholes waiting to shoot you.”

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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