Local Politics

Shea opponent concerned about rep.'s associations with "violent militias"

SPOKANE, Wash. - A man running for office against Spokane County Republican Matt Shea says he's concerned about Shea's association with the Oath Keepers, a group that describes itself as dedicated to "defend[ing] the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God."

Josh Arritola, who is running against Shea for state representative, sent out a news release Thursday morning. He says he was prompted by a concerned citizen about  Shea "and, his associations with the Oath Keepers."

The Oath Keepers say they're committed to defending the Constitution at all costs. They've been described by supporters as patriots and by rivals as radicals. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Oath Keepers a "particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival."

They were particularly active in the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada.

Arritola's release Thursday cites a criminal investigation done by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office last month. In that case, police records show a woman was dining at the Rancho Viejo in June when she overheard a group of men talking. She told investigators they were talking about "the Bundy Ranch, the Militia, snipers, special forces, churches [and] Oath Keepers."

She says they were talking about a "thermal night-vision monocular and were passing it around for everyone to look at."

The woman says she heard the names Stewart Rhodes and Ryan Payne and upon searching them on Google, she found Rhodes was the man doing most of the talking. Rhodes is the founder of the Oath Keepers.

According to the report, the woman "didn't hear all of the conversations, but said she heard enough that it concerned her and she thought maybe these guys were planning some kind of attack."

The woman took pictures of the group, which includes Matt Shea and Rhodes, and reported the incident to sheriff's deputies. The sheriff's sergeant who investigated wrote in his report that he was passing on the information and pictures to the Joint Terrorism Task Force. As of Wednesday, the FBI told KXLY4 News there was no active investigation stemming from the incident.

In his news release, Arritola says, "For too long Matt Shea has successfully slithered out of repeated incidents with law enforcement. It's time that we as a community and you as the media hold this man accountable for his connections, his associations, and his actions. His continued association and support of violent militias does not reflect the values of the citizens of Spokane County nor Washington State."

KXLY4 has reached out to Shea, but has not yet heard back.