The man charged with attempted murder in a June 14 shoot-out that injured a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger and a California Highway Patrol officer sits in Nevada County’s jail, convalescing from the gunshot wounds he sustained.
Brent Douglas Cole, 60, is being held without bail and makes it clear he perceives his incarceration as a death sentence, no matter the outcome of his criminal case.
“I’m a dead man,” he said, alluding to poor health. “They’re not going to let me out of here, ever.”
Cole will be tried in Nevada County Superior Court on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault with a firearm on a peace officer; he has been appointed a public defender and deferred entering a plea until July 10.
The June 14 gunfire near Edwards Crossing on the South Yuba River reportedly started after CHP officers received a request from BLM personnel to assist with an investigation involving vehicles in the campground area.
CHP Officer Brent Hardin and the BLM ranger headed to Cole’s makeshift campsite area off North Bloomfield Road, reportedly were confronted by Cole and a gun battle ensued.
Hardin was shot in the leg, and the BLM ranger was shot the shoulder.
According to Cole, the whole incident was a “set-up deal.”
“They’re trying to silence me — they’re trying to paint me as the devil,” he said.
Weapons arrest in January
Cole — who has drawn national media attention for his political views, including his belief in his rights as a sovereign citizen — said his legal battles in Nevada County began when he was arrested in late January and charged with carrying a loaded firearm and having a concealed firearm in a vehicle.
“I’ve spent the last six months here like some kind of refugee, trying to deal with this situation,” he said.
Cole chose to represent himself in the misdemeanor case and was scheduled to return to court Monday, a date that has since been vacated.
He filed a number of documents with the court, asserting his standing as “a statutory Attorney General of the United States” and arguing that state law was infringing on his right to bear arms.
Before he even entered a plea, Cole claimed, the judge told him the intent of the proceedings was to confiscate and destroy his weapons.
Cole asserted in filings that “Officers acted without warrant or any probable cause to seize my person using a SWAT team-style assault and then started looking for something to charge me with.
“I was attacked and molested, unconstitutionally arrested, unlawfully incarcerated, repeatedly intimidated and coerced to plead guilty to having committed a crime, held in secret for five days and my property and liberty taken from me … I am being persecuted for being a gun owner, and for exercising my inherent Right by unwitting or unknowing accomplices of a seditious conspiracy against rights instituted by foreign powers inimical to the United States of America.”
Cole said he was offered a year in jail, four years probation and the confiscation of his firearms.
“It was absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “One year in jail? Give me a break. That was no bargain … I’m not going to live much longer. One year is a death sentence, just for having a loaded gun.”
Two confrontations spark gun battle
Cole states repeatedly that the powers that be wanted to silence him and end his case.
“They sent that ranger down to try and provoke me,” he said. “I think his mission was to murder me, if possible.”
Cole said he had first lived in the county about 40 years ago and returned in October to pan for gold.
The morning of June 14, Cole said, he was initially confronted by the ranger, whose identity has not been made available to the public.
Cole was in his truck, taking two people to North San Juan, when he was stopped.
“He asked me if I had weapons, and I told him I did,” he said. “I told him where the bullets were; I told him where the guns were. He ran me for warrants and for felonies. I declared my guns openly — I was hiding nothing from him.
“I’d been using that piece of ground for years, off and on. He tells me there is no road there. Obviously there’s a road, everyone parks there. He said he would tow and impound my vehicle. He was very confrontational, very surly.
“I explained I had things I needed to pick up,” Cole continued. “I rolled out and took my passengers where they were going. When I came back, I parked my truck on the ridge and walked down. They were going through my campsite when I got there.”
According to Cole, he was carrying his .44 Magnum holstered at his side to protect himself from bears.
“I was calmly talking to him. I said I was there for my stuff,” Cole said. “I didn’t challenge his authority. I was being very low-key and soft-spoken.”
The ranger asked him if he had a weapon, although Cole said his gun was clearly visible.
“He said, ‘You need to give me all your weapons,’” Cole said, adding with a touch of indignation, “I looked at him and said no.”
Cole stood up as he explained the ensuing gunfire, demonstrating how the ranger first reached underneath his poncho to pull out handcuffs and twirl them.
“Like (he was saying) I have all the power,” Cole said.
“Then he drew his pistol on me, without any warning. I reflexed — I reached and grabbed mine out of the holster ... It was instinctual — a quarter-second grab.”
At that point, Cole said, the ranger shot him.
“The blood was flowing,” he said. “As soon as he gut-shot me, reason went out the window. He’s fortunate I was able to keep control enough not to kill him.”
Cole says he considers himself a good shot, adding, “He was about 10 feet away. If I wanted to pull up and do a center mass body shot, it would have been impossible to miss.”
Because the .44 contained a load designed to drop a bear, Cole said, “I couldn’t fathom bringing it up on them. The only thing I could go for was a grazing shot. I didn’t want to kill them ... I was just trying to get them to stop shooting me.”
Cole said he sustained two “gut shots,” requiring extensive surgery.
“They opened me up like a can opener, then they put my guts back in and stapled me back up,” he said.
The shots that hit his left arm shattered bone and destroyed nerves, he said, adding, “Every day is a little better — I’m a little stronger.”
Cole calls himself “politically outspoken.”
In the wake of his most recent arrest, national media noted his Internet postings regarding far-right conspiracies.
He references many of those beliefs in the series of documents he filed in Nevada County, which can be read at https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9c7b8lj10BWYlo2VUVXNWRvQ1U&usp=sharing.
“Sovereignty is the root of it all,” Cole said. “A sovereign answers to no other, except a higher power. You have the same rights as the king — as long as you’re not interfering with the rights of another or harming another. You have the right to do what you wish.”
Cole said he has been involved in “this struggle” for 25 years.
“Let me explain what they’re doing to us — the foreign powers,” he said. “They’re pitting us against each other, creating artificial divides that shouldn’t exist.
“Take the right to bear arms away, and this country will fall like a ripe tomato,” Cole continued. “You will see genocide. Look at Stalin, look at Hitler ... look at the Indians. It’s already happened in this country.”
In Cole’s world view, the United States is under occupation by a foreign power — a faction of “banksters” led by the Rothschilds.
“It’s the fleecing of the flock — they steal trillions and trillions of dollars from us, and they’re above prosecution,” he said. “The foreign elite, through various subversions, subject us to forms of law that aren’t even lawful.
“Bilderberg is part of it,” he said, referencing a popular conspiracy theory that claims there is an annual meeting of elite intellectuals from across the world to discuss top secret issues.
“They’re the foot soldiers. Everyone thinks they run it, but they’re just enforcement.”
Cole paints himself as somewhat of a loner, saying, “I have removed myself from society for most of my life,” and calling himself “communication-apprehensive.”
“I’m comfortable being by myself,” he said. “When I’m out there in the middle of nowhere, I don’t have any issues, I don’t have any problems. I worry about simple things. I need something to eat, I need something to drink, I need to stay warm. These are things I can do something about.”
In the end, he insists it all came down to a lack of respects for his rights.
“Four words would have prevented all of this — ‘You are under arrest,’” he said.
In California a law enforcement officer can “bark an order,” and if you don’t comply, you can be shot, according to Cole.
“There’s an attitude of absolute authority, that by god, nobody better question me,” he said.
“It’s causing long-term resentments ... If law enforcement respects your rights and is very conscious of them, you can avoid that. If they don’t, resentments build and problems are going to happen soon.
“All it would have taken to avoid this was a little bit of respect — or four words.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.