“They're doing all the things that shows that they want to take some kinetic action against us,” Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, spokesperson for the militiamen occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge said on Monday, in an interview that would be his last.
Finicum was shot and killed on Tuesday in a deadly traffic stop some 70 miles north of Burns, Oregon where protests in support of two ranchers sentenced to prison for arson precipitated the occupation of a remote federal building by armed militiamen earlier this month.
The occupiers were led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy who became something of a folk hero after he secured the release of his cattle from federal authorities who had seized the herd for “trespassing” on government property.
The standoff involving the wildlife preserve had drug on for three weeks with Bundy and his men demanding the release of the jailed ranchers and a dialogue with the government about land use and states' rights.
Many feared the confrontation would eventually turn violent and that is indeed what happened on Tuesday afternoon when the FBI stopped a vehicle carrying Bundy, his brother, Finicum, and others who were apparently en route to a nearby “public event.”
“The leaders were on the highway bound for John Day, where they were scheduled to participate in an evening community meeting set up by local residents,” The Oregonian reports. “A crowd of several hundred had gathered at the John Day Senior Center and were subsequently told the the ‘guest speakers’ would not be appearing.”
“The meeting devolved into a shouting match between supporters and detractors of Mr. Bundy when those inside learned of his arrest,” WSJ says.
“The highway was blocked for a 40-mile stretch between Burns and John Day [where] police were stationed near Seneca, a small city of 200 south of John Day, with long guns,” The Oregonian continues, describing the palpable tension.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer - who had called for the release of the jailed ranchers to end the standoff - was present as well.
Prior to his arrest on Tuesday, Bundy had been negotiating with the FBI, suggesting that an end to the protracted dispute could be near, but Finicum dashed those hopes on Friday when he said that anyone “who’s worried that we are about to negotiate a withdrawal with the FBI, that is not the case.” Subsequently, he demanded that the bird sanctuary where the men are camped out be surrendered to Harney County.
Also arrested on Tuesday was Jon Ritzheimer, who famously lost his cool in a video taped message filmed at the preserve where militia leaders were upset that detractors were sending them boxes filled with sex toys. Ritzheimer surrendered to police in Arizona.
All of those arrested are charged with conspiracy to impede officers of the U.S. from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats—a felony.
"Agents with the FBI stopped the vehicle, at which point one of the individuals in the vehicle pulled out a weapon," WSJ says. "At that point, FBI agents fired [and] the individual who was brandishing the weapon suffered fatal injuries, officials said." The group and its supporters contest that account.
My heart & prays go out to LaVoy Finicum's family he was just murdered with his hands up in Burns OR.Ryan Bundy has been shot in the arm— Michele Fiore (@VoteFiore) January 27, 2016
Here is the last interview Finicum gave before he was killed.
Also shot was Ammon Bundy's brother Ryan. He was treated and released. Here are the Bundy brothers' mugshots:
“I've heard 'peaceful resolution' for weeks now and now there’s a cowboy who is my friend who is dead – so prepare for the peaceful resolution,” Jason Patrick, one of the remaining occupiers told Reuters by phone in what certainly sounds like a veiled threat.
Here are images from the scene of the shooting:
As for what coomes next, "FBI agents were setting up a perimeter on Tuesday night around the wildlife refuge, where some people were still holding out," Reuters notes.
"I don't know what to tell you but if somebody saying 'peaceful resolution' comes in and points guns at me..." the abovementioned Jason Patrick said.
He didn't finish his sentence.
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Full statement from the FBI
At approximately 6:30 p.m. (PST), the FBI arrested Peter Santilli, age 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, in Burns, Oregon. He faces the same federal felony charge as the individuals listed below. The arrest was without incident.
At approximately 4:25 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Oregon State Police (OSP) began an enforcement action to bring into custody a number of individuals associated with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. During that arrest, there were shots fired.
One individual who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased. We will not be releasing any information about that person pending identification by the medical examiner’s office.
One individual suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. He was arrested and is currently in custody.
The arrested individuals include:
- Ammon Edward Bundy, age 40, of Emmett, Idaho
- Ryan C. Bundy, age 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Brian Cavalier, age 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
- Shawna Cox, age 59, Kanab, Utah
- Ryan Waylen Payne, age 32, of Anaconda, Montana
These probable cause arrests occurred along Highway 395.
In a separate event in Burns, Oregon, at approximately 5:50 p.m., Oregon State Police arrested the following individual:
- Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, age 45, Cottonwood, Arizona
All of the named defendants face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 372.
We continue to work with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and his deputies; Oregon State Police; and the United States Attorney’s Office to address any further outstanding issues. As the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.
All defendants should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.