Eleven members of the militia group that has occupied Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, have been arrested, including leader Ammon Bundy.
- Ammon Bundy and four others, including his brother Ryan Bundy, were arrested after a traffic stop, which resulted in a gunfight. It's not clear who shot first.
- Militia member Robert "LaVoy" Finicum was killed in the gunfire, and Ryan Bundy was shot in the arm.
- Two other militia leaders were arrested separately, and a third, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, turned himself in to authorities in Arizona, according to the Los Angeles Times. Duane Leo Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon; Dylan Wade Anderson of Provo, Utah; and Jason S. Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia were arrested Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
- The arrested militia members face charges of attempting to impede a law enforcement officer by force, which is a federal felony.
- The Bundys have led an occupation of the federal wildlife reserve since January 2, in protest of federal land use laws and government ownership of grazing lands.
What happens next?
There are still an unknown number of militia members occupying the main building of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Oregon Public Broadcasting's John Sepulvado tweeted that they have decided to stay, and that the FBI has surrounded roads to the refuge.
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who is the father of arrested militia leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy — and whose 2014 standoff with federal law enforcement agents was the precursor to the Oregon takeover — didn't seem to indicate that the occupation had come to an end with his son's arrest. In fact, he appeared to justify the death of the militia member who had been killed in the shootout.
Here's what Bundy said to the Los Angeles Times:
"We believe that those federal people shouldn’t even be there in that state, and be in that county and have anything to do with this issue. ... I have some sons and other people there trying to protect our rights and liberties and freedoms, and now we’ve got one killed, and all I can say is, he’s sacrificed for a good purpose."
While Cliven Bundy's comments imply that Finicum died defending the militia, however, the actual circumstances of his death are unclear. (Cliven Bundy is in Nevada and did not have direct knowledge of Finicum's death.)
According to supporters of the militia, Ammon Bundy said in a call to his wife that Finicum was killed after surrendering to police, and was shot while he was on the ground.
Early in the occupation, Finicum had made remarks that he would rather be killed than surrender: "There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them," he told NBC News.
However, it's possible that over the course of the occupation he changed his mind. The last interview with Finicum, conducted with the Oregonian the day before his death, shows Finicum expressing concern about the ramped-up law enforcement presence around the refuge:
"Have you felt the change of the tone and tenor of the FBI agents out there? We certainly have. We used to walk up to the feds and talk to agents in a friendly manner unarmed and stuff. But the tenor has changed. Now they have become more hardened. And when they step out of their vehicles, now they’re stepping out with their rifles and they’re not willing to engage in friendly dialogue.
And then I’m assuming you’re aware of all the extra vehicles that they’re bringing in and the increasing manpower that they’re ramping up. And we’re saying, why the rattling of sabers? Why, when we’re so far away from anybody out here in the middle of nowhere, why are you ramping it up? Why do you fly your planes above us nonstop? … They’re droning us now. And they’re flying their photographer planes.
They’re doing all the things that shows that they’re taking some kinetic action against us. And we’re saying, why be so unfriendly? Why are you so threatening? Why are you threatening lethal force when we’re so far away?"