After weeks of nonviolent impasse, several members of the militant group occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge were arrested Tuesday afternoon in a confrontation that left one man dead.
The leader of the occupying force, Ammon Bundy, was arrested along with four of his supporters in a traffic stop while they were driving to a community meeting in John Day, Oreg. One of Mr. Bundy’s men was wounded in an officer involved shooting during the traffic stop, one was killed. Law enforcement also arrested two men in Burns, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested another in Arizona in connection with the occupation.
Bundy and his followers were apparently driving to a community meeting regarding the federal government’s authority over public land, a topic at the center of Bundy’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Bundy and his group, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, took over the wildlife center earlier this month in response to the sentencing of two ranchers convicted of arson. While the ranchers distanced themselves from Bundy’s militia, the group continued to voice its opposition to their punishment as well as demanding that the federal government turn public land it manages over to locals.
The Tuesday arrest occurred around 20 miles north of Burns according to an Oregon State Police release. Those arrested in the traffic stop and in Burns and Arizona are all charged with “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats,” a federal felony.
The Oregon police statement named Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy, as well as Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, and Ryan Waylen Payne as those arrested in the traffic stop, while Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy was arrested in Burns. The Associated Press reports that Peter Santilli was also arrested in Burns, and names Jon Eric Ritzheimer as the man arrested in Arizona.
“I am pleased that the FBI has listened to the concerns of the local community and responded to the illegal activity occurring in Harney County by outside extremists,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley in a statement released Tuesday. “The leaders of this group are now in custody and I hope that the remaining individuals occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will peacefully surrender so this community can begin to heal the deep wounds that this illegal activity has created over the last month.
“The locally elected leaders and state, local, and federal law enforcement are to be commended for their close coordination in working to address this crisis,” he added.
While the status of the occupation is currently unknown, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom member Brand Thornton left the refuge Monday and suggested that the occupation could be over without Bundy’s presence.
“The entire leadership is gone,” Mr. Thornton told the Associated Press. “I wouldn't blame any of them for leaving.”
Another occupier, Jason Patrick, told The Oregonian that “we're all standing here ready to defend our peaceful resolution.”
While neither police or the FBI have confirmed the identity of the man killed in the Tuesday traffic stop, The Oregonian reported his name as Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, after his daughter confirmed his death.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.