Four militiamen are still refusing to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve where they have been locked in a 27-day stand-off with police, which has left one dead; 11 arrested and has brought widespread condemnation from the local community.
In a live video broadcast from the Oregon ranch this week, one of the last-standing members, said he believes the FBI is ‘going to kill them’, but refused to leave unless the authorities would meet their demands.
Another militiaman added he is ‘willing’ to die in a final bloody siege with the authorities if negotiations fail. Their comments come after the last leader of the occupation voluntarily handed himself in at a police checkpoint.
However, the group’s number is continuing to dwindle rapidly. The five remaining members quickly dropped to four on Thursday morning.
Murder: This militiaman appeared on a YouTube video accusing the FBI of plotting to kill the remaining demonstrators
Blackout: The armed protester claimed the FBI had ordered the media away from the nature reserve so the ‘killings’ wouldn’t be recorded
A video posted Thursday to the YouTube channel DefendYourBase, which the group has been using to give live updates says the occupiers want assurances they won’t arrested.
A speaker believed to be David Fry said: ‘We’re stuck here, four of us. They’re telling us it’s safe to leave, but it’s not safe.’
Group co-leader Jason Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Georgia, was arrested on Wednesday along with two other militiamen.
Eight members were already under arrest following the stand-off and fatal shooting of rancher Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum, 55, on Tuesday.
Militia leader Ammon Bundy was among those seized after the bloody traffic stop on Highway
He and six others were declared a flight risk on Thursday afternoon and refused release lest they return for the group’s last stand. Dozens of supporters packed the courtroom for the hearing.
Authorities claim father-of-11 Finicum reached for a gun in his waistband after fleeing in his vehicle from a police cordon and was promptly shot dead by officers.
Bundy’s brother, Ryan, was also shot in the arm during the incident.
The remaining militiamen have spoken of their dismay at the death of Finicum.
In another live video rant, one militia member angrily blasted the FBI as ‘murderers’.
‘The media has been ordered to leave that means they’re coming to kill us, they don’t want them to see that. They’re going to murder all of us… The American people better wake up,’ he said.
Another said: ‘If I die, I died for my country, I died a free man. That’s how I want to die.’
And in an interview with the Plain Dealer on Wednesday, Fry said: ‘I’ll pass on and move on to the next life. I don’t know (how it will end), but I’m willing to go that far.
‘Obviously they are murdering people at this point. They’ve been doing it for a long time now, and you guys are watching it.’
Shot dead: Rancher Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum, pictured, was shot in a clash with police on Tuesday
Family man: Finicum (center) and wife Jeanette (right) had been married for 23 years. He had 11 children
The final four are refusing to leave unless authorities assure them they will all be free to return home.
The Oregonian reported on Thursday that the group is concerned about a warrant out for militiaman Sean Anderson’s arrest and they want it dropped before they leave.
So far 11 members of the militia have been arrested.
Leader Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan Bundy were seized on Tuesday alongside Shawna Cox, 59, Brian Cavalier, 44, Ryan Payne, Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Peter Santilli. Jon Ritzheimer, 32, was arrested in Peoria, Arizona, after turning himself in to police
Duane Leo Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon, Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah and Patrick, 43, were arrested on Wednesday.
The arrests follow the release of federal court documents which claim that the militiamen were equipped with night vision goggles and explosives.
Arrested leader Bundy has called on his followers to pull out of the wildlife reserve in a statement released through his lawyer Mike Arnold.
He said: ‘To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts.’
However, his father Cliven urged the remaining group to keep fighting.
‘I’ll tell you one thing, we’re dang sure going to have to fight this battle over and over if we just give up right today,’ he told CNN during an interview at his Nevada ranch.
‘I mean, we’ve got a life lost, but that life was wasted.’
Authorities vowed to continue in their quest to bring the protest to a peaceful conclusion.
Special agent Greg Bretzing of the FBI’s Portland office said: ‘We will continue to look for safe, peaceful procedures on how to bring this to a peaceful conclusion.’
Harney County Sheriff David Ward said he regretted the death of Finicum and wants a peaceful end to the stand-off.
‘I’m disappointed that a
traffic stop that was supposed to bring peaceful
resolution to this ended badly,’ he said. ‘Multiple law enforcement
agencies put a lot of work into putting together the best
tactical plan they could, to take these guys down peacefully… If it was as simple as just waiting out some folks down
there to get out of some buildings, we could have waited a lot
‘Please go home’: Ammon Bundy, pictured earlier this month, released a statement through his attorney Wednesday asking the remaining four protesters to leave the site of their armed anti-government protest
Arrested: Oregon militia leader Ammon Bundy (left) and his brother, Ryan Bundy (right), were arrested Tuesday night
Charged: Shawna Cox (left), 59, was taken to Multnomah County Jail along with the other detained militia members Tuesday. Jon Ritzheimer (right), 32, was arrested in Peoria, Arizona, after turning himself in to police
Busted: Brian Cavalier, 44 (left), and Ryan Payne (right) were charged along with the others with conspiracy to impede federal officers
Facing jail: Joseph O’Shaughnessy (left) and Peter Santilli (right) were arrested in Burns, Oregon, a short time after the traffic stop and shoot-out
‘But this has been tearing our community
apart. It’s time for everybody in this illegal occupation to
move on. There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community.’
Ward said if the occupiers had legitimate grievances with
the government, they should use the ‘appropriate manner’ to
‘This can’t happen anymore. This can’t happen in America
and it can’t happen in Harney County,’ he said.
Authorities declined to divulge details of what led to the
fatal shooting of Finicum.
However, various onlookers say Finicum took off in his vehicle at high speed from a traffic stop.
When curtailed by a roadblock, he stopped and exited the vehicle. FBI sources told CNN that he then reached to his waistband for his gun and the SWAT team opened fire.
Bundy’s brother, Ryan, was also shot in the arm in the incident.
‘Let me be clear: It is the actions and choices of the armed
occupiers of the refuge that have led us to where we are
today,’ Bretzing said.
‘They had ample opportunity to leave the refuge peacefully and, as the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.’
Another eyewitness account claims Finicum, of Cane Beds, was gunned down after charging at law enforcement officials.
Mike McConnell, who claimed to have been behind the wheel of one of the vehicles heading to a community meeting in the town of John Day Tuesday, posted an eight-minute video on his Facebook page recounting what happened during the confrontation between the militiamen and the authorities.
Finicum, a Mormon rancher from Arizona, was a father of 11 and grandfather of 19 who was married to his wife, Jeanette, for 23 years.
‘LaVoy was passionate about this, about the movement,’ McConnell said.
In an interview with MSNBC three weeks ago, Finicum declared that he would rather die than face arrest.
‘There are things more important than your life, and freedom is one of them,’ he said at the time. ‘I’m prepared to defend freedom.’
He sounded a similar note when speaking to CNN earlier this month.
‘I’m just not going to prison,’ Finicum said. ‘Look at the stars. There’s no way I’m going to sit in a concrete cell where I can’t see the stars and roll out my bedroll on the ground.
‘I want to be able to get up in the morning and throw my saddle on my horse and go check on my cows. It’s OK. I’ve lived a good life. God’s been gracious to me.’
Orders: Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Michael Arnold, left, read out a statement from his client where he urged the remaining militiamen still at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge stand down and go home
Emotional: A visibly shaken Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told reporters on Wednesday the standoff with the Oregon militia has been tearing the local community apart
Roadblock: Police officers block the turnout to Sodhouse Lane, which is the main road leading to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Wednesday
Shooting: An Oregon State police officer was pictured on Highway 395 after the fatal shooting of Finicum
He joined the protest when it began on January 2 and was an outspoken member of the militia group throughout.
At one point he personally climbed up a pole to dismantle surveillance cameras in an apparent show of defiance against the government.
Last year, he told the St George News that he complied with federal land controls until Cliven Bundy’s stand-off in Nevada in 2014.
The episode, he said, struck a chord with him.
He joined the Bundys and ‘did a lot of soul-searching’ until he ‘realized that Cliven Bundy was standing on a very strong constitutional principle – and yet, here I was continuing to pay a grazing fee to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).’
All detained militia members were being held at Multnomah County Jail without bail and will appear in court late Thursday or Friday.
The group took over the wildlife refug after a peaceful protest in nearby Burns, Oregon, over the conviction of two local ranchers on arson charges.
Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, said they lit fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.
The two were convicted three years ago and served time – the father three months, the son one year.
But in October, a federal judge in Oregon ruled their terms were too short under U.S. law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each. Among the demands by the Bundy group is for the Hammonds to be released.
Memorial: A vigil was held for Robert Finicum on Wednesday after he was shot and killed by police at the Oregon standoff on Tuesday