CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) - A man who came into the local spotlight a few weeks ago with a controversial traffic stop, is now making headlines on the other side of the country.
His name is Peter Santilli Jr. People will remember him from an innocent enough, traffic stop on Dec. 18, in Newtown. That stop briefly put authorities on high alert when it was thought that Santilli was on a terrorist watch list. While that was quickly said to be incorrect Santilli is now putting himself in the middle of the militia takeover of a federal building in Oregon.
Santilli is an extreme, right wing journalist of sorts who is right in the media middle of Ammon Bundy's occupation of the National Wildlife Preserve in Burns, Oregon. Santilli's actions bring up even more questions about what really went on immediately after that Newtown traffic stop. Over the last few days, Santilli has been frequently seen immersed in the militia style takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. On his Pete Santilli show, which airs on the YouTube channel, he's seen wearing a jacket that says "Press Pete Santilli." Fox has even used him as a spokesman for the anti-government group in charge of the Oregon occupation.
A few weeks ago, Santilli and a woman passenger in his car were briefly held at gunpoint during a traffic stop in Newtown by police Chief Tom Synan. Initially pulled over for impeding the flow of traffic, according to the police report, a loaded 9 mm handgun with additional magazines was found on the floor of the passenger side of the car in an unzipped bag. During identification, Santilli showed up on a terror watch list; something that was subsequently called a mistake.
While Santilli was arrested, the charge of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, was officially ignored and he was released, showing up a few weeks later in Oregon. Following the arrest, Newtown Chief Synan received a number of rather threatening emails apparently from Santilli supporters. One, obtained through a public records request, said in part, "I think that it's time for citizens to draw their weapon first when approached by a cop."
In response to the threats, Synan had no comment.
Santilli is best known for his conspiracy theories regarding the 911 attacks and expressing a desire to shoot Hillary Clinton. When in Cincinnati he lived in a tiny apartment building in Mt. Washington. But a search of his background contained everything from claims of being a former Marine to real estate investor and radio talk show host. Whatever his past, his present clearly has him in the middle of a national conflict between anti-government ranchers and the federal government.
When Local 12 News submitted the public records request to Newtown police, Chief Synan was also asked if he had any idea why the criminal charge against Santilli was dropped. He again answered with a no-comment.
The situation in Oregon is certainly drawing and interesting crowd. Another man who's reportedly taken up residence there is John Ritzheimer. He has a well-known history as an extreme anti-Muslim protester who has also gained considerable attention from the FBI.
Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 6, on Twitter, Ammon Bundy the leader of the occupation force, told his followers, "Don't point guns at us and we won't point guns back. This can still end peacefully."
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