PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon cattle ranchers convicted of arson, but recently pardoned by President Donald Trump arrived back home in Harney County on Wednesday morning.
Dwight and Steven Hammond landed as free men shortly before 11 a.m. and were immediately greeted by Mrs. Hammond and the rest of the family.
A crowd of 100 people also helped welcome the Hammonds home — proudly displaying Americans flags on their trucks and signs praising President Trump. Their supporters drove from all over the West Coast to greet them.
Steven was overwhelmed with gratitude.
“It’s not something that you can explain,” Steven told KOIN 6 News.
He also said letters of support kept them going while they were in prison.
“I don’t know if everybody knows we received thousands of letters,” Steven said. “There’s a time when you get to that point, a letter means a lot. I’m not good at writing them. I hope that people get in another way. We all do what we can .Those people that write letters — there was obviously one that tipped the scale.”
The family told the crowd how much this all means to them and then thanked President Trump and Rep. Greg Walden. They also thanked the behind the scene players like Forrest Lucas, the founder of Lucas Oil, who told KOIN 6 News he used his connected to Vice President Mike Pence to help in their release.
KOIN 6 News also asked Steven how they felt about the 41-day armed standoff that took place to support the Hammonds.
Although he was reluctant to answer, Steven said, “There was a lot of people that did a lot of things. For maybe things that are trying to define what a patriot is today. If someone were to ask me what a patriot was I’d ask him what does that mean. The standoff, I believe, they had good intentions.”
Not everyone in Burns was in support of the Hammonds returning. Several people said they should have served their full sentence of five years for their arson conviction.
Hammonds released from prison
The Oregon ranchers were imprisoned for intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands, leading to the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.
On Tuesday morning, the White House announced that the Hammonds would be released. The possibility of a pardon from President Trump had been rumored over the past few months.
While their lawyer was originally told it could take anywhere between 24 hours to a week, the Hammonds were released at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Following the release, KOIN 6 News talked to the standoff leader Ryan Bundy who said, “I’m very pleased. It’s been a long time coming.”
Reaction from the Hammond family
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, the Hammond family said they were “grateful to the president and all who worked to make this possible and to bring this about.”
Later in the statement, the Hammond family said:
“We are hopeful that respected media outlets will use professional discretion and judgment before repeating false and misleading stories about the history of this legal ordeal. … We are very anxiously looking forward to seeing Dwight and Steven home.”