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Update: Violent Melee Breaks Out During Tribal Standoff

By Jerry Olenyn, jolenyn@krcrtv.com
Published On: May 16 2013 09:59:37 PM CDT
Updated On: May 17 2013 02:00:00 AM CDT
Tribal Standoff photo 2
OROVILLE, Calif. -

A tribal dispute at the Berry Creek Rancheria in Oroville ended peacefully after an 11-hour standoff by a group of protestoers.

But hours earlier, there was violence outside the building.  

About 20 Tyme Maidu tribe members kept themselves barricaded inside since early Thursday morning.

Deputies surrounded the Berry Creek Rancheria headquarters, as law enforcement prepared for the worst.

At about 1 a.m. Thursday a group of 20 tribal members had barricaded themselves in the tribal headquarters.  Apparently they were upset at being dis-enrolled from the Tyme Maidu tribe, and that they would have to leave the premises.

Miranda Bowersox, the media liaison for the Butte County Sheriff’s Office described how they blocked the entrances.

“They barricaded themselves in there by using two-by-fours to block the doorways,” said Bowersox.  “They had chicken wire, and black tarp up on the windows.”

Butte County Sheriff Jerry Smith was alerted early Thursday by the tribe's leadership that something like this was possible.

“This morning, very early this morning, we got a phone call that the situation wasn't improving,” said Smith.  “That a certain amount of folks were occupying this building behind me and were not going to leave.”

For several hours lawyers for those inside and the tribe tried to negotiate a deal.  When that failed deputies took action just before noon.  They set off a 'flash bang' for distraction,  then broke in through a window.

“We arrested everybody that was inside the building and everybody came out peacefully,” said Sheriff Smith.

But outside, the dispute led to a dangerous melee among bystanders.  A crowd of about 50 people were gathered outside, and appeared to grow restless around 9:30 a.m.  One woman threw a rock at KRCR News Channel 7 reporter Jerry Olenyn.  A group of  people yelled profanities at reporters, telling them to turn off their cameras and leave.  Another man was bleeding profusely from a large gash to his head.  He said he had been struck with a baseball bat.

No one involved would explain why this violence erupted.  One person said that tribal politics can be dangerous.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey was overseeing the operation high above from the neighboring Gold Country Casino.  He said the 20 former tribal members taken into custody can expect to see the same type of justice anyone else would.  

“Criminal activity on tribal land is the responsibility of the sheriff and myself,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey said at minimum those inside the barricade could face charges of trespassing.