In a sign the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge may be winding down, the FBI announced late Wednesday that eight people had left the compound. Five were released and three arrested.
The FBI said in a statement:
“All [three] were in contact with the FBI, and each chose to turn himself into [sic] agents at a checkpoint outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The arrests were without incident.
“Each man faces one federal felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats…
“The FBI and our partners continue to work around the clock to empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible.”
The three men arrested Wednesday were identified by the FBI as Duane Leo Ehmer, age 45, of Irrigon, Ore.; Dylan Wade Anderson, age 34, of Provo, Utah; and Jason S. Patrick, age 43, of Bonaire, Ga.
Earlier Wednesday, rancher Ammon Bundy, who had led the weeks-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge near Burns, Ore., released a statement calling for the remaining militants to “stand down.” Bundy was arrested Tuesday.
In his statement, Bundy praised LaVoy Finicum, an occupier who was shot and killed during a confrontation with police on Tuesday. He called Finicum “one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I have ever seen.”
The rest of the statement, issued through Bundy’s lawyer, read:
“We will have more to say later but right now I am asking the federal government to allow the people at the refuge to go home without being prosecuted.
“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. Please go home.
“Being in the system, we are going to take this opportunity to answer the questions on Art. 1, Section 8, Cause [sic] 17 of the United States Constitution regarding rights of statehood and the limits on federal property ownership. Thank you and god [sic] bless America.”
Bundy and seven other militants were arrested Tuesday. They also face felony charges of interfering with federal employees’ official duties.
Late Wednesday the FBI told Oregon Public Broadcasting that it was actively negotiating with the remaining militants at the refuge, but one of the militants still there was defiant.
“David Fry said five people remained in the occupied refuge. He said that he personally had no plans to leave at this time.
“When asked about Bundy’s call to leave the refuge, Fry simply said, ‘We have new leaders now and new plans.’ ”
As we reported, five of the seven militants arrested in Oregon were apprehended at a traffic stop while en route to a community meeting. One member of the group was shot and killed during that operation. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said he was “disappointed” that the carefully-planned traffic stop that was meant to bring a peaceful resolution to the weeks-long occupation “ended badly.”
Ward was emotional when he called for an end to the occupation, saying the stress from the situation hasn’t been confined to the refuge.
“This has been tearing our community apart,” Ward said. “It’s time for everyone in this illegal occupation to move on. It doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community. If we have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on them in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up and rebel. We work through the appropriate channels.”
Ward paused and shook his head before continuing:
“This can’t happen anymore. This can’t happen in America, and it can’t happen in Harney County.”