Late last night reports emerged that federal agents had been involved in a shootout with the militants that had taken over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near the town of Burns, Oregon. Reports said that one person had been killed and that Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who had been seen as the leaders of the takeover, and four others had been arrested. The arrests happened on a highway, apparently as the militants were on their way to a community meeting in the town of John Day.
Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the Bundys and several other occupiers reportedly left the refuge to attend a community meeting 100 miles away in John Day, Ore. About halfway to their destination, the FBI and the Oregon State Police ordered them to stop.
Authorities did not describe what happened next, though the Oregonian reported that Ryan Bundy and Finicum resisted orders to surrender. Ultimately, gunfire broke out.
It seems like except for Finicums’ death, only one other person, reportedly Ryan Bundy, was hurt and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and was treated in a local hospital. The Guardian adds:
In a separate incident, Joe Oshaughnessy – another rightwing activist who earlier claimed he was trying to prevent violence from erupting at the refuge – was arrested in Burns, the closest town to the wildlife refuge.
At 6.30pm PST, FBI officials also arrested Pete Santilli, a conservative Ohio radio host who has been a vocal supporter of the Bundys and was earlier live-streaming the chaos outside of a hospital in Burns.
Santilli, Oshaughnessy and the men arrested on the highway are all facing federal felony charges of conspiracy to impede officers through the use of force, intimidation or threats.
Jon Ritzheimer, another prominent occupation leader who often helped run the militia’s “security” team, was also arrested late Tuesday night. Officials say Ritzheimer turned himself in at a police department in Peoria, Arizona, and that he was arrested without incident. He is also facing a federal felony charge.
The authorities have apparently sealed off the refuge and warned people that they will be arrested if they attempt to enter it. It is still not clear what is happening with all the other people who were occupying the refuge.
Law enforcement officers set up roadblocks Tuesday night around the headquarters of the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hours after one of the takeover’s top spokesmen was killed and other leaders were arrested on a highway out of town.
FBI officials told those still at the compound, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, that they were free to leave and should do so. By midnight, few people appeared to have taken up the offer and the lights were still on.
Police had blocked the primary route into the refuge – two-lane Sod House Lane – about a quarter-mile west of the refuge entrance. A large front-end loader sat across the road, with other police vehicles parked on the shoulders.
One of the convoys moving around the refuge included police rigs, passenger cars and armored vehicles traveling south on Oregon 205, past the turnoff to the refuge and continuing on the road toward Frenchglen. The convoy could reach the refuge through back roads spidering north from the Diamond area.
Other convoys were reported moving south on Oregon 78 toward Crane, likely heading for the Princeton area and the eastern road to the refuge headquarters.
It is not clear how many people are still in the refuge or what they plan to do.
Only a few people had left, said Gary Hunt, who arrived Sunday from California to support the occupation. “The rest have decided they’re going to hold their ground,” he said.
Hunt — a board member of Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers – left the headquarters late Tuesday and talked to The Oregonian/OregonLive while parked six miles from the refuge.
Among those still there was Ammon Bundy’s wife, Lisa. She told those at the compound that she took a call from her husband after his arrest and he described some of what happened.
Patrick said those at the refuge were preparing to defend themselves for a “peaceful resolution,” but wouldn’t elaborate.
The sister-in-law of one of the people still in the refuge told The Oregonian/OregonLive that her relative wanted to leave the compound because several occupiers were preparing an aggressive stand against police.
There may be as many as forty men, women, and children, still inside. But with a blockade imposed, the stakes have risen considerably. It looks like the government has decided that this protest has gone on long enough and have decided to shut it down.
Things are undoubtedly tense and one hopes that more lives will not be lost because of some futile attempt to make a last-ditch stand.