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Hiker warns others after dangerous incident at Lake Thunderbird State Park

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It is Fall Break in Oklahoma and many families will be spending the weekend at a state park.

One hiker is warning others to watch out for questionable practices at the State Department of Tourism.

Ben Fenwick went hiking at Lake Thunderbird State Park when he had a run-in with an allegedly violent group which had taken over a part of a camping area.

Fenwick lives nearby and drives over to hike regularly.

But, a few weeks ago he tried to drive into the park when a man with a homemade road block tried to restrict all public access.

"I thought, 'Who is this guy? Why is he stopping me? What is this about?'" said Fenwick. "I shrugged my shoulders and drove past him. Then a big black pickup came barreling toward me. (The truck) blocked the road in front of me. Then, I look over and this guy drew this bow and arrow and he pointed it at me. At that point I thought 'I'm getting out of here.'"

Fenwick says the group called themselves "12 Tribes" which is recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a separatist hate group.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation the group rented out the entire south campgrounds.

When Fenwick spotted the loaded bow and arrow he called 911.

Initially, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office responded to the incident because there was no park ranger on site on a Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Fenwick says he was told the ranger was coming from Newcastle, Oklahoma and waited almost an hour for the ranger to arrive.

The ranger investigated and filed an incident report with the Tourism Department.

According to the report, after Fenwick called for help, the renters told the investigator that Fenwick tried to "assault" their gate-keeper when he drove around that barricade.

The ranger requested criminal charges for both the group-member and for Fenwick.

"I'm the one who called 911," Fenwick said. "He didn't. If this guy was in some kind of danger why didn't he call 911?"

NewsChannel 4 obtained the rental permit from the state in order to track down the members of this group and sort it out.

However, the state redacted all information about the renters.

According to Tourism all rental information is redacted per Oklahoma Open Records Act.

Tourism spokesperson Leslie Blair says even if the group is a known "hate group" they are entitled to rent out Oklahoma State Park camping areas.

"We are a governmental body so we cannot deny a group use of public property due to their beliefs or associations," Blair said.

Also, she says rental groups are allowed to block off public access in a state park.

"They were the only ones that were camping in that area. So I believe they had worked with park staff to limit access to only their group," said Blair.

Oklahoma families should be aware that unlicensed, untrained, non-uniformed renters are allowed to police state parks in that way.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn has received the requested charges from the Tourism Department against Fenwick and one of the members of the group.

Mashburn is looking into the incident to see what charges, if any, he will file against those involved.