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With the standoff live on YouTube, FBI closes in on Oregon militia

This story is developing.


Dell Cameron


The FBI closed in on the remaining four occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Wednesday night, as tens of thousands of Internet users listened via a YouTube channel broadcasting from within the camp.

In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that no shots had been exchanged with the last of the armed, anti-government militia, which has occupied a federal outpost near Burns, Oregon, since Jan. 2. Negotiations between law enforcement and the occupiers continue, an official said.

“If that can’t be accepted, then we die here. God has put us on this path.”

The remaining occupiers face arrest and felony charges for their role in the standoff. They have been identified as David Fry of Ohio; Jeff Banta of Elko, Nevada; and Sandy and Sean Anderson of Riggins, Idaho.

Thus far, the four refused to abandon the outpost, though their departure was requested by militia leader Ammon Bundy, arrested himself along with seven others on Jan. 27. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a spokesperson for the Bundy’s militia, was fatally shot during the arrests, which followed a car chase. Video of the incident was later released by the FBI.

Law enforcement’s decision to advance on the group was preceded by one of the occupiers driving an all-terrain vehicle outside the encampment, the FBI said. The person fled “at a high rate of speed” once approached by the agents.

On Wednesday evening, often-frantic exchanges between federal agents and the occupiers were livestreamed on YouTube. Over a loudspeaker, an FBI agent repeatedly told the group they had “nowhere to go,” while asking them to “come out with your hands up.”  

The militants, while apparently on the phone with Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, accused the FBI of coming to murder them. Fiore has been supportive of the group, and on Twitter accused law enforcement of murdering LaVoy.

On Monday, Fiore vowed to come to Oregon and get Ryan Bundy, brother of Ammon Bundy, out of jail. “I will be there to demand his release,” she announced. “If that Nevadan can’t leave Oregon, we will bring Nevada to him. Peaceful, of course.”

Over the livestream, a woman believed to Sandy Anderson said if they went to jail, “that’s admitting that we did not follow the Constitution, and we did.” 

Sandy’s husband, Sean, said the group would only leave the outpost on Thursday with the assistance of Christian evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham. “If that can’t be accepted, then we die here.” He later said: “God has put us on this path. Our family’s already been taken care of.”

Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement the authorities had tried to resolve the dispute through dialog. “And to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peaceful,” he said.

“However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers on the scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area,” Bretzing said.

Occupier Fry, 27, who was reportedly online friends with LaVoy, has had frequent run-ins with the law, his family recently discussed with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB).

“He gets pulled over for busted tail lights,” Fry’s grandfather said, “and instead of just rolling down his window and handing over his insurance, he screams at the officer: ‘What the [expletive] do you want?’ And right there, a regular thing turns into him in handcuffs.”

This story is developing.

Photo via Richard Bauer/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) 

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