A nearly month-long standoff in Oregon appears to have ended with a deadly shootout and several arrests.
The standoff began on Jan. 2 when an armed group occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and ended in a shootout on an Oregon highway on Tuesday.
Members of the group were headed to a community meeting in John Day, about 110 kilometres from the refuge, to discuss the occupation when the FBI and Oregon State Police stopped them.
Gunfire was exchanged and one member of the group was shot and killed while another was shot and taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to the FBI.
The group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, was among those arrested.
In a statement, the FBI and Oregon State Police said agents had made eight arrests: Bundy, 40; his brother Ryan Bundy, 43; Brian Cavalier, 44; Shawna Cox, 59; and Ryan Payne, 32, during a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 395 Tuesday afternoon. Authorities said two others – Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, and Peter Santilli, 50 – were arrested separately in Burns, while FBI agents in Arizona arrested another, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32.
Each will face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats, authorities said. No indictments or federal charging documents had been made public.
Oregon State Police confirmed that its troopers were involved in the traffic-stop shooting, though neither agency released details about what started it. One of those arrested, described only as a man, suffered non-life-threatening wounds and was treated at a hospital, the agencies said. Another man “who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest” was killed, they said. The agencies said they would not release further information about the death pending identification by the medical examiner.
The Oregonian reported that Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was the person killed, citing the man’s daughter. The 55-year-old was a frequent and public presence at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, often speaking for the group at news conferences.
Arianna Finicum Brown confirmed her father’s death to the paper, saying “he would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved.”
The group seized the land to protest prison terms for two local ranchers convicted of setting fires on federal land.
After the ranchers voluntarily reported to prison, Bundy made several demands, including that federal land in Harney County be turned over to local residents. He has also said he is obeying a divine command.
Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the U.S. federal government over grazing rights.
– With files from Associated Press
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