One Killed, Eight Arrested During Bid to End Militant Occupation in Oregon

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One Killed, Eight Arrested During Bid to End Militant Occupation in Oregon

Worries mount as affiliates of the group issue calls for sympathizers to head to the area

An officer stands in front of an Oregon State Police roadblock. Highway 395 was blocked at Seneca between John Day and Burns by Oregon State police officers the evening of Tuesday, January 26, 2016. (Photo: Dave Killen / staff)

One member of the militant group that has been carrying out an armed occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon was shot and killed late Tuesday as other members, including leader Amon Bundy, were arrested on federal charges following a confrontation with law enforcement.

In addition to Ammon Bundy, said officials, those arrested were: his brother Ryan Bundy, 43; Brian Cavalier, 44; Shawna Cox, 59; and Ryan Payne, 32 - all of whom were apprehended 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.

Authorities said that each of the men now face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.  Authorities released few other details, but scheduled a news conference with the FBI and local sheriff and police departments for late Wednesday morning.

The man killed during the confrontation has been identified as Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, who often acted as spokesperson for the militant group.

Difficult to miss in his wide-brimmed hat, Finicum stood out among the occupiers not only because appeared to take a leadership role, but because of his repeated pledge to never submit to police or federal agents.

Though members of the group arrested reportedly claimed that Finicum was cooperating when he shot, law enforcement officials claimed that he, as well as Ryan Bundy, refused to obey repeated orders.

Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity and among those who have staged a running counter-protest to the occupation in Oregon, wrote on Twitter overnight, "Finicum was always armed, spoke/wrote often of dying in gunfight. Wrote novel with this ending."

The Oregonian posted this video of Finicum speaking just one day before he was ultimately killed.

And this interview with Finicum, conducted live on MSNBC on January 6, showed him vowing to confront law enforcement with deadly force if arrest warrants were ever executed against him or others members of the group:

The attempt to arrest the men came as both local community members and state lawmakers, including Governor Kate Brown, had urged law enforcement to increase pressure on the group to leave the compound which has been closed since the siege began on January 2.

Following Tuesday's arrests it remained unclear how many occupiers remain at the site, but worries mounted as affiliates of the group issued calls for those sympathetic to the cause to head to the area. As The Oregonian reports:

Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers, issued a call on its website for help at the refuge. The post was written by Gary Hunt, a board member from California who has expressed support for Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City and had ties to the patriot movement.

"You have an obligation to proceed to the Harney County Resource Center (the wildlife refuge) immediately," Hunt wrote. "If you fail to arrive, you will demonstrate by your own actions that your previous statements to defend life, liberty, and property were false."

Gov. Brown, meanwhile, urged calm. "The situation in Harney County continues to be the subject of a federal investigation that is in progress," she said in a statement. "My highest priority is the safety of all Oregonians and their communities. I ask for patience as officials continue pursuit of a swift and peaceful resolution." 

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