the takedown

Multiple Arrested, One Dead as Oregon Standoff Enters Next Phase

The standoff between anti-government activists calling themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom” who took over an unoccupied federal building in rural Oregon nearly a month ago has taken a new turn.

During the afternoon of January 26, the FBI and Oregon State Police (OSP) began an enforcement operation to bring into custody those involved in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

One individual who was subject of a federal probable cause arrest has been killed, another suffered non-life threatening injuries, and several others were arrested, according to a joint statement released by the FBI and OSP.

According to media reports, law enforcement officials pulled over vehicles carrying occupation leader Ammon Bundy and others on U.S. Highway 395, as they were apparently on their way to a community meeting in the nearby city of John Day.

For weeks, law enforcement had maintained a presence around the refuge but let occupiers and others generally come and go freely.

That changed on Tuesday with the enforcement operation. CNN reported that during the traffic stop the vehicle occupants obeyed the orders of law enforcement, except for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and Ryan Bundy.

According to media reports, Finicum, who served as a spokesman for the group, was killed, while Bundy, the brother of group leader Ammon, was wounded.

Earlier this month in an interview with CNN, Finicum said "I'm just not going to prison... There's no way I'm going to sit in a concrete cell where I can't see the stars and roll out my bedroll on the ground. That's just not going to happen.”

Following the fatal encounter, federal and local law enforcement placed blame on the illegal occupiers, with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward saying the traffic stop “was supposed to bring a peaceful resolution to this,” according to The Hill.

“Let me be clear: It is the actions and choices of the armed occupiers of the refuge that has led us to where we are today,” said FBI Portland Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing. “As the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”

The consequences begin with federal charges. All of the defendants face federal felony charges 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.

The Oregonian explored how this charge has been used in past situations.

According to the Associated Press, a handful of occupiers remain in the federal building, but it is unclear if they will continue the occupation with their leaders in custody.

Ammon Bundy, the group’s arrested leader, in a statement read by his attorney following his arrest said, “Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.”

Reports in The Oregonian, taken at the time after the initial arrests and while the FBI and OSP were setting up road blocks and encouraging the remaining occupiers to surrender to authorities, suggested remaining occupiers may continue their hold of the property.

"American people better wake up and get here and fight for your country right now, it is on,” one occupier said to a camera streaming from the refuge after the first arrests. “If they stop you from getting here, kill them," referring to law enforcement officials.

OPB reports that several militants remain in the refuge. One of them, David Fry, was quoted as saying “we have new leaders now and new plans.” 

The FBI and OSP arrested additional individuals on the morning of January 27 as they attempted to leave the property. Three were arrested on the same felony charges as their colleagues and five released. Women and children were said to be among those on the property with the occupiers, so it is possible they were among those released.

The FBI continues to collaborate with OSP, the Harney County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the ongoing investigation.

"It is time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on," Sheriff Ward said on Wednesday, according to the Statesman Journal. "There doesn't have to be bloodshed in our community. (When) we have issues with the way things are in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on them in an appropriate manner. We don't arm up, we don't rebel. We work through the appropriate channels. This can't happen anymore, this can't happen in America, and it can't happen in Harney County."

Militia and other anti-government groups may see the conclusion of the Malheur saga as the spark their movement has been looking for.

“I think this is going to galvanize people’s concerns that the government is taking actions that it’s not supposed to,” B.J. Soper, a member of the Pacific Patriots Network, an umbrella organization of regional militia groups, told The Washington Post. “I believe it’s going to galvanize people into the movement.”

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