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BLM workers on alert after wrangler threatened with gun on I-15

Published May 8, 2014 9:44 am

Terror ploy? • Assailants hide behind hoods, mask license plate while making death threat.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With anti-government sentiments roiling in the aftermath of Cliven Bundy's Nevada standoff, government workers in western Utah are stripping BLM logos from their vehicles after two motorists brandished a gun and displayed a threatening sign at a federal wrangler who was driving Tuesday in Juab County.

The wrangler was driving a load of horses and burros north on Interstate 15 about 11 a.m. near Mills when a dark blue Dodge 1500 extended-cab pickup pulled up alongside the wrangler. The two occupants "told him he was No. 1 with that certain gesture," said Eric Reid, the wrangler's supervisor at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Fillmore Field Office.

The pickup fell back and the wrangler continued north. A few minutes later, the pickup reappeared, Reid said. The men, wearing hoods, held up a sign, apparently scrawled on a piece of paper, that read, "You need to die." One of the men pointed what appeared to be a Glock handgun at the wrangler.

The wrangler tried to make out a license plate number, but the plate had been covered with duct tape, Reid said.

After watching the pickup drive past Nephi, the wrangler reported the threat. The Utah Highway Patrol searched for the pickup but has not found it.

"We are investigating this and investigating it thoroughly," UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said.

BLM officials do not believe the men were stalking the wrangler in connection to the agency's controversial wild horse and burro roundups, but rather that they noticed the BLM logo on his truck and trailer and saw an opportunity to harass a federal employee, Reid said.

"It's one of those things now we're going to be dealing with," Reid said. "A lot of [people] have taken that attitude toward the government."

Because the wrangler's travel was slowed by the trailer full of animals, the pickup's occupants had plenty of time to pull over and cover their license plates with tape — a strategy used by Bundy's supporters who rallied with him against federal agents in an armed standoff over BLM grazing fees, Reid said.

Now BLM workers are removing the agency's logo from their vehicles as a "precaution," Reid said.

"We're toning things down," he said.

KUTV 2News on Wednesday obtained emails detailing the agency's response to Tuesday's threat.

Officers in charge of the West Desert district urged employees to "be prepared to encounter unfriendlies."

"We never know in life when we will cross paths with these types," the message states.

"... We are hopeful this will be a lone instance and it will fade from memory."

ealberty@sltrib.com