Occupiers at Oregon refuge say they’ll turn themselves in

In this file photo, Jon Ritzheimer, of Arizona, a member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, adjusts a sign. Burns, Oregon, Jan. 5, 2016 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

BURNS, Ore. (AP) — The last four armed occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon said they would turn themselves in Thursday morning after law officers surrounded them in a tense standoff.

The development came as Cliven Bundy — who led a Nevada standoff with federal officers in 2014 and who is also the father of the jailed leader of the Oregon standoff — was arrested in Portland.

Jennifer Williams, who owns a small ranch outside of Burns, Ore., said she arrived at the demonstrations to send a message that the standoff supporters don’t represent the voice of the community outside the Harney County Courthouse in Burns, Ore., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Hundreds gathered to protest and support the armed occupation of a national wildlife preserve, Burns, Oregon, February 1, 2016 | Photo by Molly Young/The Oregonian via AP, St. George NewsT
Jennifer Williams, who owns a small ranch outside of Burns, Ore., said she arrived at the demonstrations to send a message that the standoff supporters don’t represent the voice of the community outside the Harney County Courthouse. Hundreds gathered to protest and support the armed occupation of a national wildlife preserve, Burns, Oregon, Feb. 1, 2016 | Photo by Molly Young/The Oregonian via AP, St. George News

The four occupiers yelled at officers to back off and prayed with supporters over an open phone line as the standoff played out on the Internet Wednesday night via a phone line being livestreamed by an acquaintance of occupier David Fry.

Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio, sounded increasingly unraveled as he continually yelled, at times hysterically, at what he said was an FBI negotiator. “You’re going to hell. Kill me. Get it over with,” he said. “We’re innocent people camping at a public facility, and you’re going to murder us.”

“The only way we’re leaving here is dead or without charges,” Fry said, who told the FBI to “get the hell out of Oregon.”

Fry and the three others are the last remnants of a group led by Ammon Bundy that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 to oppose federal land-use policies. The three others are Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and married couple Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho.

Fry said Wednesday the group was surrounded by armored vehicles.

Cliven Bundy, the father of occupation leader Ammon Bundy, flew into Portland International Airport Wednesday night and was arrested by authorities. He was booked into the lockup just before 11 p.m. according to Multnomah County Jail records.

The 74-year-old Nevadan was at the center of the standoff with federal officials over use of public lands. The Oregonian reports he now faces a conspiracy charge of interfering with a federal officer related to that standoff at his ranch.

The FBI confirmed Cliven Bundy was taken into federal custody but declined to provide a reason or other details, saying further information would be released by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Las Vegas, which did not respond to a phone call early Thursday.

Ammon Bundy had been demanding that the Oregon refuge be handed over to locals.

A Nevada legislator, Michele Fiore, called the occupiers earlier in the evening to try to get the occupiers to calm down. Fiore said she could help them only if they stayed alive.

I need you guys alive,” said the Republican member of the Nevada Assembly who was in Portland earlier in the day to show support for Ammon Bundy, who remains jailed. Fiore told occupiers Wednesday night she was driving to the refuge to try to help negotiate their exit from the refuge. The occupiers prayed with Fiore and others as the situation dragged on for hours Wednesday night.

Sean Anderson said late Wednesday he spoke with the FBI and that he and the three other holdouts would turn themselves in at a nearby FBI checkpoint at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Anderson relayed the news to Fiore.

“We’re not surrendering, we’re turning ourselves in. It’s going against everything we believe in,” he said.

Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement the situation had reached a point where it “became necessary to take action” to ensure the safety of all involved.

Bretzing said one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside “the barricades established by the militia” at the refuge. When FBI agents tried to approach the driver, Fry said he returned to the camp at a “high rate of speed.”

The FBI placed agents at barricades ahead of and behind the occupier’s camp, Bretzing said.

“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” he said in a statement.

Authorities had for weeks allowed the occupiers to come and go freely from the remote refuge, leading to criticism from local and state officials that law enforcement wasn’t doing enough to end the situation.

Ammon Bundy and others were arrested Jan. 26 on a remote road outside the refuge, but the four holdouts remained.

On Wednesday night Sandy Anderson said after the group was surrounded: “They’re threatening us. They’re getting closer. I pray that there’s a revolution if we die here tonight.

Her husband, Sean Anderson, said in the livestream: “We will not fire until fired upon. We haven’t broken any laws, came here to recognize our constitutional rights.”

The occupiers said they saw snipers on a hill and a drone.

The standoff was occurring on the 40th day of the occupation, launched by Bundy and his followers to protest prison terms for two local ranchers on arson charges and federal management of public lands.

Bundy was arrested last month as he and other main figures of the occupation were traveling to the town of John Day. Four others were also arrested in that confrontation, which resulted in the shooting death of the group’s spokesman, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. The FBI said Finicum was reaching for a gun.

Most of the occupiers fled the refuge after that. Authorities then surrounded the property and later got the holdouts added to an indictment charging 16 people with conspiracy to interfere with federal workers.

At first, Bundy urged the last holdouts to go home. But in response to the grand jury indictment, he took a more defiant tone from jail.

WRITTEN BY: REBECCA BOONE and LISA BAUMANN, Associated Press

Associated Press Writer Terrence Petty contributed to this report from Portland, Oregon.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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2 Comments

  • anybody home February 11, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I’m laughing because it seems that the St. George News has decided to stop updating this story now that Old Man Cliven is in the clink. So here’s the news so far this late afternoon/evening. Cliven has a lot of charges against him, all but one at the moment, from the standoff in 2014. He could get upwards of 40 years occupying a piece of Federal property, aka prison. But that’s not all. There’s more! The Feds called out the 200 or more who “stood with him” in 2014 and rumor has it that 68 or so are already on the list for warrants. The yahoo web sites are going crazy with this. Run. Run for your lives! My guess is about 68 tough (with their guns) patriots might not be resting too easy tonight. Manly men look pretty brave when carrying a heavy weapon holding off a smaller number of Feds, but now that push has come to shove, they’re crying like little girls the way David Fry did before he agreed to leave the Refuge today. If you want to follow the story, try oregonlive.com or opb.org. That’ll get you to the info.

    Nobody know where Michele Fiore is tonight but Oregonian hope she left for home. If you’re one of the 68, you might want to scrub your Facebook page with all the anti-government rants.

    More laughing.

  • KarenS February 11, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    You have probably seen this. It is hilarious.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/geek/2016/02/oregon_standoff_ballad_portlan.html#incart_story_package

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