Following a weeks-long standoff that started in a civil manner but grew increasingly tense as time passed, the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon came to a head on Tuesday, as eight people, including the occupation’s leader, Ammon Bundy, were arrested by federal agents. In addition, during the arrest which followed a traffic stop, one of the militants, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was shot and killed while another, while another received a less serious wound.
The group had been on their way to a community meeting being held in the town of John Jay. It was not the first community meeting the group had left the refuge to attend, meetings that had been growing markedly more tense, as the militia members sat and endured a string of local residents recounting the negative affects the occupation had brought to their previously calm, small town lives, and begging them to peacefully leave the area.
Speaking just prior to the arrest, Judge Steve Grasty spoke about the attitude of the public towards the ranchers’ presence in the town. “People (are) calling me concerned, saying, “I’m afraid to go to the meeting. I’m afraid there’ll be firearms there.” Speaking for the county and the people within, Judge Grasty continued, “This county, and many in this county, have been pretty steadfast in saying, ‘Mr. Bundy, with your armed militia, you’ve made your point, you did that weeks ago – it’s time for you to go home.”
Following his arrest, Ammon Bundy has urged, in a statement released by his attorney, the remaining militants to leave the wildlife refuge and to “stand down” and to “go home and hug your families.” The police have also encouraged a peaceful resolution, telling the remaining militia members that any who wished to leave would be allowed to do so, requiring only that they give their names to law enforcement before being cleared to leave.
On Wednesday, three of the remaining holdouts took advantage of the offer to do just that. In a statement released jointly by the Oregon State Police and the FBI, it was reported that Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Oregon, Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah, and Jason S. Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Georgia, surrendered peacefully to authorities at a nearby checkpoint. All are expected to face charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers from the discharge of their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats. Though Bundy and the rest of the initial eight who were arrested appeared before a federal magistrate judge on Wednesday, the judge ordered them to be held without bail until at least Friday.
With what’s believed to be only a handful of militia members remaining in the wildlife refuge, there’s growing pressure to resolve the situation. Dave Ward, Sheriff for Harney County, says “It’s time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on,” and any remaining reporters who remained in the refuge have vacated the premises, leading some to think a final confrontation is approaching.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that some of the remaining sympathizers have taken a threatening tone, referring to the stand-off as being a “free-for-all Armageddon.” Referring to the absence of the once ubiquitous reporters, another, speaking from a livestream, said this means “they’re coming to kill us, and they don’t want them to see that,” indicating that a final, peaceful resolution may not be in the cards.