Leader of armed Oregon occupation arrested, 1 killed

One killed during arrest of leader of armed occupation at wildlife refuge in Oregon, say authorities

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Leader of a group of armed protesters Ammon Bundy talks to the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 8, 2016

The leader of an armed occupation at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon was arrested on Tuesday during a confrontation in which one person was killed and another was wounded, the FBI said.

Protesters were still occupying the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon after leader Ammon Bundy's arrest and the Federal Bureau of Investigation was setting up a perimeter, a law enforcement official told Reuters.

The takeover at Malheur that started Jan. 2 is the latest flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over the US government's control of millions acres of land in the West.

Four other people, all in leadership positions of the occupation, were taken into custody along with Bundy following the confrontation along Highway 395 in northeast Oregon around 4:25 p.m. local time (0025 GMT), according to the FBI. A fifth individual was arrested by the Oregon State Police in a separate incident in Burns, Oregon about 1.5 hours later.

All of those arrested face federal charges of conspiracy to use force, intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties, the FBI said.

One of the remaining occupiers, Jason Patrick, told Reuters by phone they would stay until the "redress of grievances".

"I've heard 'peaceful resolution' for weeks now and now there's a cowboy who is my friend who is dead - so prepare for the peaceful resolution," Patrick said.

2-year-old African American boy fatally shot by police outside a Cleveland recreation centre in 2014. The officers were not charged.

"The government can kill who they want for whatever reason they want with impunity," Patrick said.

Asked how the occupiers would respond to law enforcement entering the refuge he did not indicate a clear plan.

"I don't know what to tell you but if somebody saying 'peaceful resolution' comes in and points guns at me..." he said before trailing off.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that Bundy had been en route to a community meeting in John Day, Oregon, with several other members of the occupation, where he was scheduled to be a guest speaker, when authorities stopped his vehicle.

The newspaper said 43-year-old Ryan Bundy, Ammon's brother, was injured in the arrest, suffering a minor gunshot wound. Authorities did not release the identity of the person killed.

Some 25 miles (40 km) of Highway 395 was shut down in both directions following the incident, a dispatcher for the state department of transportation said.

The occupiers of the wildlife refuge said they were supporting two local ranchers who were returned to prison this month for setting fires that spread to federal land. The ranchers' lawyer has said the occupiers do not speak for the family.

Burns Mayor Craig LaFollette told Reuters that while he had limited information about the night's events, he hoped the stand-off would come to a peaceful end.

"I think my perception is that people's patience was running thin and that the community as a whole was looking for some resolution and to have these people leave," he said.

Law enforcement officials had largely kept their distance from the buildings at the refuge, 30 miles (48 km) south of the small town of Burns in rural southeast Oregon's Harney County, in the hope of avoiding a violent confrontation.

Local residents have expressed a mixture of sympathy for the Hammond family, suspicion of the federal government's motives and frustration with the occupation.

TRTWorld, Reuters