With night vision goggles and AR-style rifles, 2 men went to the Mojave and shot up wild burros

Two men who used short-barreled rifles to kill three wild burros in the Mojave Desert in 2021 pleaded guilty on Monday to federal charges, prosecutors said.

Under a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend probation rather than prison time for the pair, who face up to 10 years behind bars just for their gun offenses.

Cameron John Feikema, 36, of Yorba Linda, and Christopher James Arnet, 32, of Loveland, Colo., each pleaded guilty to a felony count of possession of an unregistered firearm and a misdemeanor count of maliciously causing the death of a burro on public lands as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.

Late on Nov. 5, 2021, the two men donned tactical gear that included ballistic helmets equipped with night vision goggles and drove in Arnet's truck into the desert just north of Yermo in San Bernardino County, court records show. They were armed with unregistered short-barreled rifles that prosecutors described as similar in style to assault rifles.

Read more: New clues may shed light on killings of wild burros in Mojave Desert

Around 1 a.m., prosecutors say, the men collectively fired at least 13 shots, striking and killing three wild burros.

"One burro was shot near its spine towards its hind legs, which paralyzed the burro’s hind legs and caused the animal severe pain before it died," the U.S. attorney's office wrote in a statement. The bullet removed from that burro was fired from Arnet's rifle, prosecutors said.

As part of their plea agreement with prosecutors, Feikema and Arnet agreed to turn over their rifles, more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, night vision goggles and other tactical gear, according to court documents.

Both men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for the firearm charge and up to one year in federal prison for killing the burros. However, as part of their plea agreements, prosecutors are expected to seek no more than three years of probation, a stint of home detention and a fine of no more than $2,000 for each man, according to documents filed in court. They are scheduled to be sentenced on July 8.

Read more: More than 40 wild burros slaughtered in the Southern California desert; reward offered

The slaying of wild burros, which are protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, has been happening for years.

At least 42 wild burro carcasses with gunshot wounds were found in various states of decomposition along Interstate 15 between Baker, Calif., and Primm, Nev., in the summer of 2019.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management called it one of the largest killings of its kind on public land managed by the agency. The search for the individuals responsible is ongoing, according to the agency.

In January, BLM announced it was offering a $10,000 reward for information that could assist its investigation. The agency also identified two vehicles of interest in the killings of 19 of the burros, whose carcasses were found Aug. 13, 2019, the agency said in a news release at the time.

Authorities have asked anyone with information about the crime to call (909) 987-5005.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.