BURNS, Ore., Feb. 10, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) ─ The armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge came to an end after major developments Thursday morning:
─ The Federal Bureau of Investigation surrounded the wildlife center with armored vehicles after an encounter with one of four remaining occupiers, who rode an ATV outside the boundaries set by militia members.
─ Various lawmakers and clergy members announced they would be on site Thursday to try and assist with negotiations between the occupiers and the FBI.
─ Cliven Bundy ─ the 74-year-old Nevada rancher who is a key figure in disputes between federal agents and the organized group of ranchers and their supporters disputing grazing rights on government land ─ announced Wednesday night on Facebook he was going to the site of the Oregon conflict, and urged his followers to go as well.
─ Bundy was taken into federal custody after his plane landed at Portland International Airport.
─ And the four remaining occupiers said they intended to surrender sometime on Thursday.
The recent developments began at about 4:30 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, after the occupiers rode the ATV outside of the perimeters originally set by the larger militia group after it took over the refuge on Jan. 2, 41 days ago.
Agents attempted to intercept the ATV rider. A Wednesday evening news release from Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, explained what happened next.
“FBI agents attempted to approach the driver, and he returned to the encampment at the refuge at a high rate of speed,” the statement said.
“At this time, the FBI has moved to contain the remaining occupiers by placing agents at barricades both immediately ahead of and behind the area where the occupiers are camping. Negotiations between the occupiers and the FBI continue. No shots have been fired.”
Nevada assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, who strongly advocates gun owners rights, and who has supported the Bundy family in the past in federal land rights protest, promised to come to Burns to help negotiate a peaceful end to the occupation, according to an article in Portland’s newspaper, the Oregonian.
The paper also reported that Fiore was coming in response to a phone request from militia leader Ammon Bundy, now in custody after a Jan. 26 traffic stop that resulted in his arrest, that of his brother, Ryan, and five others including Shawna Cox, of Kanab, Utah.
That incident also resulted in the shooting death of Robert “LeVoy” Finicum, who left his vehicle and approached law enforcement agencies, moving in ways they interpreted as threatening. Finicum’s Feb. 5 funeral, in Kanab, was attended by more than 1,000 friends and militia supporters.
Cliven Bundy, now in custody, is facing the conspiracy charges similar to those of sons Ammon and Ryan and several of the other militants who were arrested.
Fiore has called the timing of the elder Bundy’s arrest unfortunate in the light of progress she hoped to see in the case of the occupiers’ planned surrender on Thursday.
The standoff was tense Thursday morning. In a phone call broadcast on morning news shows, an FBI negotiator ordered an occupier to come out with his hands up. The occupier shouted back, asking if he should do that so agents could shoot him. He eventually surrendered.
The final four occupiers in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge as of Thursday morning were David Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio; Sean Anderson, 48, and his wife Sandy Anderson, 47, from Riggins, Idaho; and Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nev.
All four surrendered without incident.