Law-enforcement officers were ordered by the federal special agent in charge to cease "all operations" hours before an armed standoff at a Nevada ranch reached its tension-filled zenith in 2014.
But they did not. Three law-enforcement officers testified in federal court Thursday that they maintained their positions throughout the night and into the next day, anticipating a bloody gunfight at Bundy Ranch.
The officers told jurors they feared for their lives, prayed to God and thought they would see their partners get shot as cattle ranchers and militia members squared off against federal authorities.
None of the officers explained in court why they were ordered to engage anti-government protesters — and open fire with less than lethal weapons — after being told at least twice to stand down, abandon their efforts to round up private cattle on federal land and leave.
"We were still under threat," U.S. Parks Police Officer Tara McBride said. "My understanding was we were ceasing gathering cattle and we were to remain in place to provide security for the (incident command post)."
This was one of the first times law-enforcement officials have publicly acknowledged the government orders to back down, drawing attention to a little-known detail about the high-profile confrontation.