BY JOHN SEPULVADO @JohnLGC
This story originally appeared on OPB.org and is reprinted with permission of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Read the original, longer report here.
Ten days into the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, David Fry was looking forward to going home. Shunned by the alpha-male militant leaders in the camp, Fry—a skinny, bespectacled 27-year-old from Ohio—was waiting to talk to one person before he left.
"I want to say goodbye to LaVoy, but then I have to go home," Fry told OPB the afternoon of Jan. 14. "I think I make some of the guys nervous here because of the bad things people are saying about me."
Those "bad things" included criticism that Fry supported the radical terrorist group ISIS and had repeatedly praised Adolf Hitler online.
Less than two weeks later, LaVoy Finicum would be shot dead on a highway, and David Fry would be one of the last four militant holdouts at the compound.
Online, Fry is quick to engage with anyone willing to listen. A believer in conspiracies, Fry comes off as bombastic, paranoid and angry. In defending his anti-Semitic posts, he wrote on his Google+ account, "ZIONIST JEWS ARE NOT TRUE JEWS!"
"He's had his problems, some of which he's brought on himself," his paternal grandfather, William Fry, told OPB. "He gets pulled over for busted taillights, and instead of just rolling down his window and handing over his insurance, he screams at the officer, 'What the fuck do you want?'"
Fry's anger, often directed at authority, resulted in a strained relationship with his own father, William "Bill" Fry Jr.
"We used to both be Tea Party guys," Fry Jr. said. "But we would argue even about that. I would always say, 'Ballots over bullets,' and he would get real mad, and we couldn't talk about it."
David Fry was bullied in high school because of his Japanese heritage.
"He was one of five people who wasn't Caucasian at the school," Bill Fry said. "With his brother being one of the other five."
After school, David spent his time doing odd jobs at his father's dental office, and getting in minor scrapes.
"Dear America, here's a letter I received from Pioneer Collections Agency telling me they want some money because I refused to pay some criminal court fines for smoking marijuana on a river and not wearing a life jacket," Fry said in a YouTube video, where he shows himself burning the collections letter. "This is obviously tyranny. This is bullshit."
Online, David Fry found an older, male ear to bend in Robert "LaVoy" Finicum. The Arizona rancher had become a confidant of the Bundy family in 2014 after Finicum came to the Bundys' Nevada ranch in April, during the family's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.
Finicum began posting videos on YouTube and long screeds in militia chat rooms. Fry casually commented on those videos and posts, and shortly the two began a digital correspondence.
Fry helped Finicum self-publish his book, Only by Blood and Suffering, a post-apocalyptic novel set in the Western desert.
"He talked about LaVoy a lot," Fry Jr. said. "but before he left [for Oregon], and I think if LaVoy wasn't there, [David] wouldn't have left."
Bill Fry said the last conversation he ever had with his son, he tried to talk him out of leaving for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
"And like we always do…we just blew up at each other," Fry Jr. said. The two haven't talked directly since then, although David Fry said he called while his dad was on vacation.
"I'd like to have him home," Fry Jr. said, crying. "But it's not about me, and I don't think that would help. It's about his belief."
On Jan. 14, LaVoy Finicum, as he was known to do, made peace in the camp between leaders and David Fry. The leaders, particularly Ryan Payne, an Army veteran, were upset about Fry's online support of ISIS.
Even after the issues were smoothed over, the rest of the militant group did not accept Fry. "I don't know anything about him," militant Jason Patrick told OPB on Jan. 27. "I think he's just gawking. He's not going to help us when the FBI rolls in."
But Fry stayed, along with husband and wife Sean and Sandy Anderson, and Jeff Banta, even after Patrick turned himself in; even after a jailed Ammon Bundy pleaded Jan. 28 for him to leave.
"I will stay here to the end," he said, after Bundy's plea for the remaining occupiers to surrender.
Read further coverage of David Fry and militants in Harney County at OPB.org.