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Judge denies bail for Marine vet arrested by FBI in his “bunker home”

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A judge Wednesday ruled a McLoud man will stay jailed until trial because he is a potential danger to the community.

Christopher Steven Ledbetter, 29, is accused in Oklahoma City federal court of illegally possessing a fully automated machine gun.

His supporters say the Marine veteran is a peaceful man, who has been targeted because he stood up for his family in their ongoing dispute with McLoud police. More than a dozen rallied outside the courthouse Wednesday morning to call for his freedom. Some carried flags.

“This is a travesty of justice,” his mother, Joann Johnson, said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Mitchell decided against releasing Ledbetter under strict conditions after watching a video of him refusing to pull over for McLoud police in May.

In the video, he drives home instead and can be heard loading a gun in the vehicle. He asks his mother in a phone call to tell his stepfather “to get the guns ready.”

The judge also pointed to his “flagrant” confrontation with the McLoud police chief in February and to a speech he gave outside the Oklahoma Capitol in May.

In the five-minute speech, he talked of fighting with the Kurds against ISIS after leaving the Marines. He ended with a declaration that he would not follow any laws “against peaceful freedom.”

“If they do enforce it, I will use all of these weapons and all of the banned weapons for their intended purpose of killing terrorists, foreign and domestic. And I will do the same here as the terrorists that I killed foreign,” he said. “Liberty or death!”

The judge said Ledbetter’s spiraling conduct gave her great concerns. She commented that there would be no order if citizens were allowed to not follow the laws they disagreed with.

Ledbetter became upset with McLoud police after an officer supposedly used the family’s trash can on their property in Lincoln County without permission. The officer and his mother had a confrontation in February about it after the officer stopped Ledbetter’s sister. The officer was later fired, according to testimony at the hearing.

Ledbetter also was upset because he believed police were covering up an officer’s inappropriate sexual relationship with a female student at McLoud Public Schools, his attorney told the judge. The student was described as a family friend.

“He committed the ‘crime’ of contempt of cop and that is why he has the federal government after him today,” attorney Michael Johnson said.

The attorney compared Ledbetter to the millions protesting “bad cops” across the nation in the wake of the death in Minnesota of George Floyd.

The FBI arrested Ledbetter on Thursday on a state warrant of eluding police and searched his family’s property. Authorities have called the property a compound. Ledbetter lived on the property in a large shipping container described by the FBI as a barracks. On top of the container were sandbags and camouflage netting.

Ledbetter admitted after his arrest that he possessed “an illegal select fire AK-47-style carbine,” according to the FBI. He said he had modified it himself to fire in a fully automatic mode. The FBI recovered it from his Jeep.

“He said several times that he knew it was illegal,” special agent Joshua Rich testified at the hearing.

In the search of the family property last week, the FBI found two homemade grenades and two Molotov cocktails, according to the testimony.

A former girlfriend told the FBI that Ledbetter had talked during a vacation together in Arkansas about how fun it would be to go pig hunting, according to the testimony. “She said he meant police,” the special agent told the judge.

The FBI is continuing to investigate others involved with Ledbetter in an organization called Sons of Liberty.

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