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Bowman County Sheriff says he is not member of Oath Keepers, denounces group

Bowman County Sheriff Frank Erberle, who was named in an article published this week for being a member of the Oath Keepers according to a leaked membership roster, speaks out.

Bowman County Sheriff Frank Eberle.jpg
Bowman County Sheriff Frank Eberle
InForum file photo
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BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. — The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2020 election protests and subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to conduct its final hearing next week.

In the wake of the attack, many reports have centered on a group of organizations who promoted or participated in the events that transpired. One of these groups is the Oath Keepers, a controversial right wing group with high profile members. With national attention centered on the group, its membership has been the subject of widespread reporting.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in collaboration with Distributed Denial of Secrets, leaked a roster of purported members of the Oath Keepers organization on Sept. 6.

A total of 38,000 names were reputed to be members according to the leaked list. The ADL published an article revealing the identities of dozens of elected officials across the United States, noting the ambiguity of individuals being active members with a bolded disclaimer on its website.

“An individual's inclusion in the Oath Keeper database is not proof that they were or are still an Oath Keeper, that they hold or held all or some of Oath Keeper ideology or viewpoints, or that they ever actively participated in Oath Keeper activities,” the ADL’s website states.

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An article recently reported that Bowman County Sheriff Frank Eberle was among those listed as being purported members of The Oath Keepers. The article stated that Eberle, “did not respond to repeated requests for comment,” and The Forum attempted to reach the sheriff multiple times via phone, talking to his receptionist and leaving multiple voice mails for him, before publishing the story.

The Dickinson Press spoke with Eberle, who noted he was shocked by the news.

"I was really surprised. I had no idea it was even out... Somebody told me about it," he said.

Eberle acknowledged his past membership, but said he hasn’t been a member of the organization for years — including most of his tenure as sheriff.

“On its face it looked like a good deal, the Oath Keepers, because that's all we have is the law of the land, the Constitution and such. But after they pulled that stupid sh** on January 6 in Washington, D.C, I wanted nothing to do with them. I denounced them at that point,” Eberle said during an interview with The Dickinson Press on Monday.

Explaining his position on the election protests that occurred at the Capitol leading into the inauguration of President Biden, Eberle said that he overtly denounced the actions that resulted in millions of dollars of vandalism damage to federal property, several Capitol Police officers being injured and one protester being killed by law enforcement after attempting to breach a barrier.

The FBI has described the Oath Keepers as being a, “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by U.S. Army veteran Stewart Rhodes, who has been disbarred as a lawyer in Montana. Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy for participating in the violent protests and Eberle agrees they should be.

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“That's not the way anybody should have acted. That was definitely a criminal act, what those people did,” Eberle said. “I’ve never had any activity, correspondence or verbal talk with anyone from the organization, Stewart Rhodes or anybody like that. I wouldn’t know him if he walked up right now.”

He added that he quit paying affiliation dues as a member of the group at some point in 2018 or 2019 because he no longer felt it was beneficial to him in serving and protecting the people of Bowman County.

“I just kind of lost interest in it because it wasn’t helping me locally,” he said.

Eberle argued that conflating everyone included on an organization’s membership database as conspiracy mongering subversives is a cynical way to approach conveying information to the public.

He added that he believes most Oath Keepers are “red blooded Americans who love this country” who should not be maligned as a whole simply because “some other idiots had done some stuff.”

In his tenure, Eberle has drawn criticism and sparked controversy.

In late January , he responded to the Biden Administration’s 30-by-30 initiative, a worldwide initiative for governments to designate 30% of Earth's land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030, with choice words. He denounced it as a sinister land grab that ignored due process, and said he would deputize citizens to prevent federal agents from enacting it.

“Without due process, I would use the law to my fullest advantage to protect private property. I’d deputize as many people as necessary to prevent the federal government from taking it away from somebody,” he said at the time.

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Concerning the article released regarding his purported membership with the Oath Keepers, Eberle had choice words for the nature of the reporting in the InForum article naming him and using his photo as the story's main art.

“It’s that typical liberal end of the state there that doesn't seem to have any respect for people who are willing to stand up for the Constitution,” Eberle said. “You can’t lump everybody into one category… They just threw me under the bus by affiliation. If one’s guilty, they’re all guilty...”

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Related Topics: DICKINSONPOLICEJANUARY 6
Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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