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Public-lands protester Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, faces felony charges that could land her in prison stemming from a standoff with law enforcement authorities in eastern Oregon.
Cox is well-liked in Kanab and nearby Fredonia, Ariz., and is known as a sweet, churchgoing family woman who holds strong views on public lands and constitutional issues.
She is among seven protesters arrested late Tuesday. They were part of a group who had taken over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns in Harney County in early January.
During a confrontation with authorities on a road several miles outside the refuge, another protester, Arizona resident LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed.
Cox's husband, Don Cox, has called her a "patriot." He could not be reached Wednesday by The Salt Lake Tribune.
But her close friend, Mike Noel, who represents the Kanab area in the Utah Legislature, has known Cox for some 40 years and described her as a stalwart in her community.
She goes to church every Sunday, has a large family and is active in politics, Noel said Wednesday.
Cox is also involved in the area's tea party movement. She has written a book about Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who forced a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in 2014, called "Last Rancher Standing: The Cliven Bundy Saga, a Close-up View."
Cox was in Nevada during that standoff and developed close relationships with Bundy and his sons Ryan and Ammon, who were among those taken into custody Tuesday. Ammon Bundy is seen as the organizer of the Oregon protest.
Noel said he warned Cox not to go to Oregon for several reasons: It's the wrong state, the wrong federal agency (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) and the wrong approach.
"Getting involved with a controversial group in a revolutionary manner was not a good idea," he said. "She went off base with this one, and she shouldn't have."
Cox was one of the organizers of the ATV protest ride in southern Utah's Paria Canyon in 2009.
Noel joined Cox and others for that protest, which he insists was not illegal. Authorities disagree, although no charges were ever filed.
Noel said he was concerned that the standoff in Oregon could end badly. "A lot of us wanted to diffuse the situation," he said. "I saw her on TV and I was fearful. 'You're not going to win this thing,' I had told her. It's crazy."
A friend of Cox, Sharla Christie, described her as a "sweet woman who is likable but not afraid to speak her mind."
Among other things, Cox organized guest speakers to address the Kanab-area tea party on a regular basis.
"She's just a hometown girl, not anyone who would be a threat," Christie said. "She has strong beliefs but she's certainly not a terrorist."
Christie was not completely surprised that Cox was arrested with the Bundys. She noted that Cox had been working with them for some time.
"She's really a great person and loves her country," Christie said. "And she's willing to stand up that's very admirable."
Earlier this month, a group of Utahns traveled to the wildlife refuge in an effort to diffuse tensions between law enforcement and the Bundy militia. Among them was gun-rights and community activist Janalee Tobias, who met with Cox and the others.
Cox was organizing various activities, Tobias said, including working to resupply the protesters with food and clothing.
In a Jan. 4 news conference at the refuge, Cox read a list of grievances that she addressed to state and federal authorities regarding constitutional rights.
"She was friendly," Tobias said, "and very happy to be there and make a statement."
Tobias said she was surprised by the news of the arrests and the death of Finicum. But she noted it could have been worse.
"When you bring firearms into the equation," she said, "it changes things."
The Oregon protest began about the same time Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, turned themselves in to serve prison terms after being convicted of arson on federal land. The Hammonds have said they do not support the efforts of Bundy's group.