Oregon occupation spokesman reportedly killed, eight other protesters arrested

January 27th, 2016 by Staff


One person died and eight others were taken into custody Tuesday when authorities confronted an armed protest group responsible for a nearly monthlong occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, officials said.

Killed in the confrontation was Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who had acted as a spokesman for the group of self-styled defenders of the Constitution, according to Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who spoke with the wife of Ammon Bundy, the son of a renegade Nevada rancher and a leader of the group.

Bundy was among five people initially taken into custody, including his brother, Ryan, who was shot in the arm during the incident, Fiore said.

She said Ammon Bundy told his wife in a phone call that the group had been cooperative. He told her that Finicum was shot three times while he had his hands up in the air, according to Fiore.

“It’s very unfortunate. The only saving grace is there’s six witnesses to it,” said Fiore, a supporter of the Bundy family who called the federal Bureau of Land Management, one of the targets of the protesters’ ire, a “bureaucratic agency of terrorism.”

“My perspective is our government has acted lawless and we have got to stop” it, she said.

Finicum’s daughter, Arianna Finicum Brown, confirmed her father’s death to the Oregonian newspaper. “He would never, ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom, and he knew the risks involved,” said Brown, who was one of 11 children.

Fiore’s account of how the arrests occurred could not be confirmed with authorities, nor was it clear whether any protesters remained at the refuge.

In a statement on the arrests, authorities said that shots were fired during the incident on U.S. 395. The injured person, whom Fiore identified as Ryan Bundy, was treated and released, the statement said.

The highway confrontation began at 4:25 p.m. when authorities from the FBI and Oregon State Police “began a law enforcement action” to take into custody those associated with the armed occupation of the refuge, officials said in a statement.

Authorities did not give details on the killing of the suspect, who they said “was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest.”

Police said they made a separate arrest of another man, Joseph O’Shaughnessy of Cottonwood, Ariz., who was taken into custody in the town of Burns, near the occupied wildlife refuge.

About two hours after the initial confrontation, authorities also arrested Internet radio host Pete Santilli, a supporter of the occupation who has documented the case on his program and via live stream since it began.

An eighth suspect, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, was arrested in Peoria, Ariz., about 8:30 p.m. on a federal charge related to the occupation, the FBI said.

Ritzheimer, an antigovernment activist who has organized armed anti-Muslim rallies in Phoenix, turned himself to the Peoria Police Department and was taken into custody without incident, officials said.

All of those taken into custody, including Santilli and Ritzheimer, face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers through the use of force, intimidation or threats, authorities said.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he congratulated law enforcement officials for ending the “illegal activity” at the refuge.

“I am pleased that the FBI listened to the concerns of the local community and responded to the illegal activity occurring in Harney County by outside extremists,” he said in a statement.

“The leaders of this group are now in custody, and I hope that the remaining individuals occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will peacefully surrender so this community can begin to heal,” he said.

Leaders of the group have been largely holed up at the refuge outside Burns since Jan. 2, protesting the federal sentencing of two local ranchers and the government’s administration of public lands.

They had been expected to appear at a community meeting Tuesday night in the city of John Day, but never arrived.

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