BURNS — One militant is dead and the top leaders of the refuge occupation are in police custody after law enforcement officials stopped vehicles Tuesday afternoon about 15 miles north of Burns.
Ryan Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., suffered a minor gunshot wound and was taken into custody in a highway stop conducted by the FBI and the Oregon State Police.
Also arrested were his brother, Ammon Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, and Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada, and Shawna J. Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah. They were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, a felony.
Authorities did not release the identity of the person killed in the shootout, but the daughter of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, 55, of Arizona, said her father was to be part of the entourage going to John Day.
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said that Ammon Bundy called his wife, Lisa Bundy, from the back of a police car on Tuesday night.
Who are the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? They’re military veterans and small business owners. Some have authored books and lost their jobs to join the cause. Who are the armed occupants of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon?
Fiore, a vocal supporter of the Bundy family, said that Ammon Bundy told his wife that Finicum was cooperating with police and had put his hands up. Then, Fiore said, Bundy told his wife that he watched police shoot Finicum three times. She said that Ammon Bundy also said Finicum was on the ground when he was shot.
Finicum on Monday said in a radio blog interview that he sensed heightened activity from federal law enforcement.
“Definitely a lot of saber rousing going on around us,” Finicum said on America’s Freedom The Right to Bear Arms. “I do believe they’re positioning themselves. There’s definitely a hardening of their postures. They’re bringing in more assets. They’re doing a lot of saber rattling. … We’re just moving forward.”
In Burns, Oregon State Police also arrested Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 45, Cottonwood, Arizona. He is known in militia circles as “Captain.”
Several hours later, Jon Ritzheimer, 32, a key militant leader, surrendered to police in Arizona on the conspiracy charge. He gained national fame for complaining on a video about the delivery of sex toys to the refuge in response to the occupiers’ plea for supplies.
Police also arrested Pete Santilli, an independent broadcaster known for his aggressive manner and live streaming refuge events. He also faces a conspiracy charge to impede federal officers.
Kristen Grainger, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown, declined to comment on the arrests. Earlier Tuesday, the governor told reporters she thought “there needs to be a higher level of federal engagement around federal management of federal land.”
Brown also repeated her insistence that federal officials take steps to end the occupation and said “it’s extremely important that wrongdoers be held accountable.”
“Until we have the opportunity to be fully briefed,” Grainger said, “I need to defer to the FBI’s spokespeople.”
No details were available about the dramatic finish to the free-roaming ways of the militant leaders. The FBI has been in charge of the refuge occupation, but it wasn’t immediately known which police agencies were involved in the arrest.
The militants seized the wildlife refuge on Jan. 2, insisting they wouldn’t leave until their demands were met, including the freeing of two Harney County ranchers jailed on federal arson charges. One militant on Tuesday afternoon posted a video of Ammon Bundy talking earlier in the day with an FBI negotiator identified only as “Chris.” The two have been negotiating since last week, with Bundy dictating the circumstances under which he would talk and what the group wanted.
The leaders were on U.S. 395 bound for John Day, where they were scheduled to participate in an evening community meeting set up by local residents. A crowd of several hundred had gathered at the John Day Senior Center, who were subsequently told the the “guest speakers” would not be appearing.
The highway was blocked for a 40-mile stretch between Burns and John Day. Police were stationed near Seneca, a small city of 200 south of John Day, with long guns. They said they didn’t know how long the roadblock would be place. Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was there.
Palmer two weeks ago had met with Payne and Ritzheimer. He later publicly declared that Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven, should be freed from federal prison to help end the standoff. Palmer also has recommended that the FBI leave the Harney County scene and turn the matter to local police.
The armed militants took over the vacant headquarters compound at the refuge, about 30 miles southeast of Burns. They have been using refuge buildings for meetings and lodging, posting armed security guards.
At the refuge Tuesday evening before officials issued a statement, occupier Jason Patrick reported no unusual activity. The only word he had about a possible arrest was from an independent broadcaster allied with the militants.
“It’s pretty quiet here,” Patrick said. He said no one was leaving as of 6 p.m.
The occupiers have been moving without police interference between the refuge and Burns, even attending a county-sponsored community meeting at the Burns High School a week ago. Police estimated at least 50 militants scattered through the crowd of about 400 people.
The dramatic event came days after public officials had gone public complaining about the apparent inaction by law enforcement. The governor had complained directly to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey as well as the White House. On Monday, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, who chairs the county commission, also publicly urged police to resolve the occupation.
Payne and Bundy have been in and out of Harney County since November, aroused by the sentencing of the Hammonds. In October, they were ordered back to federal prison to finish five-year terms for deliberating starting fires that burned federal land in 2001 and 2006. Bundy and his followers had demanded that Harney County Sheriff David Ward protect the ranchers from having to surrender, a demand Ward rejected.
Payne and other militia met local residents in an informal meeting on New Year’s Day in Burns, vowing they had peaceful intentions. The next day, about 300 people — a mix of militia and local residents — paraded in protest through downtown Burns, stopping at the sheriff’s office and then stopping at the home of Dwight Hammond and his wife Susan.
That afternoon, a splinter group of militants drove out to the refuge, left vacant after federal authorities warned employees to stay away over safety concerns. Later, Payne confirmed in interviews with The Oregonian/OregonLive that the group had long planned to seize the refuge.
Besides demanding freedom for the Hammonds, the Bundy group wanted the refuge turned over to prior private owners and to the county. They insist that the federal government has no constitutional authority to control land in Harney County, a county that measures 10,000 square miles. The federal government controls 76 percent. The Bundy group also has encouraged ranchers to renounced their federal grazing permits, showcasing a New Mexico rancher Saturday at the refuge who did just that.
— Laura Gunderson, Carli Brosseau and Ian Kullgren of The Oregonian contributed to this post.
— Les Zaitz
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