Daily Mail, Associated Press and Reuters — Jan 27, 2016
Oregon militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum has been shot dead after a traffic stop escalated into a shoot-out that saw Ryan Bundy wounded and eight leaders of the occupation movement arrested.
The group’s leader Ammon Bundy was among the militiamen arrested during the encounter on Tuesday afternoon as they drove to attend a community meeting in the neighboring town.
It is the climax of a tense stand-off between federal agents and the activists more than three weeks after they took over a government building in Burns, Oregon, to protest two ranchers being jailed.
According to local media, shots were fired within minutes of the traffic stop, killing Finicum and wounding Ryan Bundy.
It is not clear who opened fire first.
Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and three other leaders of the occupation – Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, and Shawna Cox – were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, Oregon Live reports
Officials would not confirm the identity of the militiaman shot dead. However, numerous sources close to the occupiers identified Finicum on Twitter, and Nevada state Rep. Michele Fiore confirmed it was him, according to Gawker.
Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Peter Santilli were arrested in Burns soon after the traffic stop and shoot-out.
An eighth group member, Jon Ritzheimer, was arrested in Peoria, Arizona, after turning himself in to the police department, Fox reported.
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.
The hospital where Ryan Bundy and LaVoy Finicum were taken, St Charles Medical Center, is now on lockdown.
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.
According to Oregon Live, the leaders had been en route to John Day – 70 miles from Burns – to appear as guest speakers at a meeting with hundreds of local residents.
The crowd was informed the group would not be able to make it to the event after the dramatic traffic stop.
Frustrated local and state officials have been increasingly urging the FBI to do something to resolve the situation.
Bundy and his group have held frequent news conferences at the site, travelled to meet with sympathizers and others to espouse their views and some even attended a community meeting last week, where local residents shouted at them to leave.
Federal authorities have taken a hands-off approach so far and say they want a peaceful resolution.
Bundy has been in contact with an FBI negotiator and local law enforcement.
On Friday Bundy went to the Burns Municipal Airport, where the FBI has set up a staging area, and met briefly with a federal agent
Bundy left because the agent wouldn’t talk with him in front of the media. Sieges by federal authorities in the early 1990s led to deadly standoffs in at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.
The group took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2 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.
The alleged arrests on Tuesday come after an Army veteran was arrested for a DUI while he was heading to join the militia occupying federal land in Oregon.
Joseph Arthur Stetson, 54, was caught on camera threatening to kill cops on Monday as he was driving to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.