State Police troopers fatally shot a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Oregon militia during a Tuesday traffic stop and authorities arrested eight others as a standoff with the remaining occupiers of a wildlife refuge in Burns intensified early Wednesday morning.
Gunfire erupted along Highway 395 during the stop 70 miles north of Burns on their way to a community meeting in which they were scheduled to meet with residents of the city of John Day. Militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum was fatally shot during the encounter and ringleader Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and followers Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox and Brian Cavalier were arrested.
Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy and talk-show radio host Peter Santilli were arrested separately in Burns while another militia member, Jon Rizheimer, surrendered to authorities in Arizona, according to KATU.com.
All eight of the arrested men are facing federal felony charges, including conspiracy to impede officers from discharging their official duties, according to officials.
“We continue to work with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and his deputies, Oregon State Police and the United States Attorney’s Office to address any further outstanding issues,” the FBI said in a statement.
Finicum, a rancher who had spoken at several news conferences and was considered an unofficial spokesman for the group, which took over the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge more than three weeks ago on Jan. 2.Deborah Finch, the mother of Finicum’s son-in-law, learned of the rancher’s death through protestors. Finicum’s wife had traveled to Burns from the couple’s Arizona ranch to celebrate his 56th birthday,the Oregonian reported.“It’s so sad, it’s so bizarre to me,” said Finch, who told the Daily News that the dead rancher was fighting for what he believed in.
It’s unclear if those arrested had returned fire.
One person was wounded during the confrontation. The unidentified victim was among those arrested and has since been released from a hospital and placed in federal custody. The hospital was locked down while the suspect was treated.
Judge Steve Grasty, a staunch opponent of the militia, heralded Tuesday’s arrests as the end of the armed occupation.
“I am relieved this situation is coming to an end,” Grasty said in a statement. “However, I am saddened by the loss of life. I hope and pray that those who remain at the Refuge will stand down peacefully.”
It’s unclear what led to the traffic stop, but a statement from federal and state police described the incident as an “enforcement action.”
Gov. Kate Brown had criticized the lack of federal action against the militia members, calling upon investigators last week to clear out the refuge.