Hours after a judge ruled against militia leader Ammon Bundy in his ongoing legal battle with a hospital on Monday, Bundy’s followers received a mass text message summoning them to his Idaho home, which the message claimed was “currently surrounded by law enforcement.”
The house was not, in fact, under siege. But the message stoked ongoing fears of conflict as Bundy, best known for a pair of armed standoffs with authorities, drags his feet through a contentious court case.
Bundy is the leader of the People’s Rights Network (PRN), a right-wing activist hub that boasts of its ability to mobilize members on a moment’s notice via its alert system. While running a doomed gubernatorial campaign in 2022, Bundy led the PRN in a protest of St. Luke’s Hospital in Meridian, Idaho, temporarily putting the facility in lockdown while Bundy trespassed on its property. St. Luke’s later sued Bundy and his associates, accusing them of a defamation campaign that led to death threats against the hospital’s staff. Bundy has been openly uncooperative in the case, skipping court and even threatening charges against people who delivered legal papers to his house.
Last week, Idaho’s Gem County Sheriff announced that he would no longer attempt to serve Bundy with court papers because “there is potential for someone to getting hurt. My concern is with the safety of process servers and my deputies. I do not want to risk harm over a civil issue.” (After St. Luke’s lawyers complained, the sheriff announced that he would serve papers, after all.)
A judge also weighed in on Bundy’s absence, issuing a civil arrest warrant last Tuesday for contempt of court. But Bundy has not been arrested, and has instead released a series of YouTube videos attacking his opponents. In one video last week, Bundy appeared to justify his campaign against St. Luke’s, stating “the people should’ve tore down the hospital to get that baby. You know, if we had to, we should’ve done that.” (The PRN campaign against St. Luke’s began last spring, when the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare ordered the temporary treatment of a malnourished baby at St. Luke’s, against the wishes of the child’s parents, who were PRN supporters.)
The videos did not help Bundy’s case. On Monday, a judge issued a default ruling in St. Luke’s favor, due to Bundy’s failure to appear in court or respond to the lawsuit. The judge also ruled that Bundy and his co-defendants must sit for a deposition by May 24.
“Another fan, who said he lived two hours away, filmed himself driving to Bundy’s house.”
Shortly after the judge’s Monday ruling, PRN followers received texts from the organization, asking them to report to Bundy’s house.
“EMERGENCY ALERT,” read one of the mass messages. “Ammon Bundys home in idaho is currently surrounded by law enforcement. He is calling for people to come to his aid.”
The message went on to list Bundy’s address, as well as the phone number for the Gem County Sheriff, which followers were instructed to call “and let them know this is not OK.”
The supposed police raid was less dramatic than the text let on. A livestreamed video from one Bundy supporter appears to show a sheriff truck driving away from Bundy’s property.
The Gem County Sheriff’s office, which did not return a request for comment, told the Idaho Statesman on Monday morning that no one was trying to arrest Bundy at that time.
Still, multiple Bundy supporters were on the property by the time the livestreaming fan showed up. Another fan, who said he lived two hours away, filmed himself driving to Bundy’s house, imploring followers to do the same. “Two hours away and I’m driving; what’s your excuse,” the man asked viewers in a video titled “Breaking! Sheriff’s department surrounds Ammon Bundy’s home.”
Bundy has previously raised fears of a confrontation. He is best known for a pair of armed standoffs against federal law enforcement in 2014 and 2016, and in a December video, suggested his willingness to take up a gun again in the St. Luke’s case.
“They’re suing me for defamation. They’re probably going to try to get judgments of over a million dollars and take everything they have from me,” Bundy said in the December clip. “And I’m not going to let that happen. I’m making moves to stop that from happening. And if I have to meet ’em on the front door with my, you know, friends and a shotgun, I’ll do that. They’re not going to take my property.”