Stand­off lead­ers ar­rested

Au­thor­i­ties sur­round oc­cu­pied na­ture refuge fol­low­ing shoot­ing death of one oc­cu­pier

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS JUS­TICE

The Ore­gon na­ture pre­serve be­ing oc­cu­pied by an armed anti-govern­ment group was sur­rounded by law-en­force­ment agents Wed­nes­day, a day af­ter one of the oc­cu­piers was killed by of­fi­cers dur­ing a traf­fic stop and eight oth­ers, in­clud­ing group leader Am­mon Bundy, were ar­rested.

The con­fronta­tion came amid in­creas­ing calls for au­thor­i­ties to take ac­tion against Bundy for the il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, which was seized by the group on Jan. 2 in a bid to force the govern­ment to turn fed­eral lands over to lo­cal of­fi­cials.

The traf­fic stop was sup­posed to bring a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion but ended badly, Har­ney County Sher­iff Dave Ward said, adding he was dis­ap­pointed.

“Mul­ti­ple law en­force­ment agen­cies put a lot of work putting to­gether the best tac­ti­cal plan they could to take th­ese guys down peace­fully,” Ward said at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

The death didn’t hap­pen, he said.

De­tails of the fa­tal en­counter were sparse. It oc­curred as Bundy and his fol­low­ers were head­ing to a com­mu­nity meet­ing late Tues­day af­ter­noon in the town of John Day, about 70 miles north of Burns.

Arianna Finicum Brown con­firmed that her father, Ari­zona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was the man killed, the Ore­go­nian re­ported. The 55-year-old was a fre­quent and pub­lic pres­ence at the refuge, of­ten speak­ing for the group at news con­fer­ences.

It was un­clear what led to the shoot­ing, or if Finicum or any of the other ranch­ers ex­changed gun­fire with of­fi­cers. Au­thor­i­ties would not say how many shots were fired.

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“This is where I’m go­ing to breathe my last breath, whether I’m 90, 95 or 55,” Finicum told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Jan. 5. “... I’m go­ing to not spend my days in a cell.”

The FBI and Ore­gon State Po­lice would say only that the dead man was wanted by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties. They said no more specifics would be re­leased pend­ing for­mal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion by the med­i­cal ex­am­iner.

Greg Bret­z­ing, spe­cial agent in charge for the FBI in Ore­gon, said au­thor­i­ties took a de­lib­er­ate and mea­sured re­sponse to the oc­cu­piers and tried to con­duct the traf­fic stop safely and away from lo­cal res­i­dents.

The armed ac­tivists were given am­ple op­por­tu­nity to leave the refuge peace­fully and have their griev­ances heard through le­gal means, he said.

“They threaten chose, in­stead, to the very Amer­ica they pro­fess to love, with vi­o­lence, in­tim­i­da­tion and crim­i­nal acts,” Bret­z­ing said at the news con­fer­ence.

Ward added the oc­cu­pa­tion has cre­ated stress among area res­i­dents, with some oc­cu­piers “try­ing to stir is­sues” in town. He and Bret­z­ing urged the re­main­ing group mem­bers to leave.

“This has been tear­ing our com­mu­nity apart. It’s time for ev­ery­body in this il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion to move on,” the sher­iff said. “There doesn’t have to be blood­shed in our com­mu­nity.”

Brand Thorn­ton, one of Bundy’s sup­port­ers, said he left the refuge Mon­day and was not sure what those re­main­ing would do.

“The en­tire lead­er­ship is gone,” he told the AP in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “I wouldn’t blame any of them for leav­ing.”

Thorn­ton called the ar­rests “a dirty trick” by law en­force­ment.

AP PHOTO

Ari­zona rancher LaVoy Finicum car­ries his ri­fle af­ter stand­ing guard all night at the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore. Jan. 6. Finicum’s daugh­ter con­firmed he was the man shot and killed late Tues­day dur­ing a con­fronta­tion with au­thor­i­ties.

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