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BURNS, Ore. — The standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge seemed to be winding down early Thursday as eight people left the refuge and were met by FBI and Oregon State Police at checkpoints. Three protesters were arrested and five were freed.
Before the checkpoints were established, several other cars left the refuge without incident, authorities said.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. PT, the FBI made probable cause arrests of Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Ore., and Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah, according to a release by the law enforcement agency.
At approximately, 7:40 p.m., agents made a probable cause arrest of Jason S. Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Ga. All were in contact with the FBI, and each chose to turn himself into agents at a checkpoint outside the refuge. The arrests were without incident, authorities said.
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 same charge leveled against the protesters arrested Tuesday.
Earlier Wednesday militia leader Ammon Bundy urged his followers to leave, according to a statement released by his attorney.
Bundy’s lawyer, Mike Arnold, read a statement by Bundy, arrested Tuesday, on the steps of a courthouse in Portland.
“Right now, I am asking the federal government to allow the people at the refuge to go home without being prosecuted,” the statement read. “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.”
The statement also paid tribute to Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the protester who died on Tuesday, as federal and state authorities arrested Bundy and seven others during a traffic stop on Highway 395 between the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge refuge and John Day, Ore. Bundy and the protesters had holed up at the refuge since Jan. 2. Authorities said the arrests came after futile efforts to end the standoff peacefully for 25 days.
Bundy’s reported request came after mounting pressure from authorities for the protesters to abandon the site.
“They have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America they profess to love and through their criminal actions bring these consequences upon themselves,” said Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge, said earlier Wednesday.
In a particularly emotional statement before reporters, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward spoke directly to the remaining half-dozen holdouts at the refuge.
“It is time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on,” Ward said, stopping periodically to regain his composure. “There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community. (When) we have issues with the way things are in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on them in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up, we don’t rebel. We work through the appropriate channels. This can’t happen anymore, this can’t happen in America, and it can’t happen in Harney County.”
The brief statements by the FBI, sheriff and federal prosecutor came one day after law enforcement officers stopped a group of the protesters at a roadblock about 20 miles north of the refuge.
Finicum, the soft-spoken but defiant co-leader of the protest group, was shot and killed. Officials refused to provide details, but the 56-year-old Arizona resident’s identity was confirmed by his family.
Ward said officials might have been able to wait longer to move against the protesters if they had not “created a lot of stress” in the community.
“Some of these folks have spent a lot of time in town trying to stir up issues in the community,” he said. “It has been tearing our community apart.”
In the confrontation Tuesday afternoon, Ryan Bundy, brother of Ammon Bundy, received a minor gunshot wound at the roadblock along U.S. 395, according to The Oregonian. He was treated and released from a local hospital and taken into FBI custody.
The group’s two-car caravan was stopped as they were headed to a community meeting in the town of John Day. Several other protesters, who did not make the trip, remained behind at the compound and continued to defy authorities, even after the shooting.
One of them, Jason Patrick, said Wednesday he had been speaking with an FBI negotiator during the night who told him “they just want to get everybody off the refuge.”
“It’s hard to decide what to do,” he said in a phone interview. Patrick called Finicum’s death “disheartening” and described the incident at the roadblock as a “violent and coercive force.”
Patrick said from inside the compound, where he was cooking eggs Wednesday morning, he could see a number of law enforcement officers in a convoy of armored vehicles.
“Sounds like the definition of peaceful resolution is either forcefully kidnapping me or death,” he said. “A peaceful resolution is not dead people.”
Those arrested Tuesday included the Bundy brothers, Ryan 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., and Ammon, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, along with Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville; Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont. Also arrested, at separate locations in Burns, Ore., near the refuge, were Pete Santilli, host of a conservative online radio show, and Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Ariz.
An eighth person, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, was arrested after turning himself into police in Peoria, Ariz.
Bundy, head of an anti-government group, had been holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Jan. 2, when he and his followers seized its headquarters south of Burns as part of a long-running dispute over public land use in the West.
Three weeks after a group of armed protestors occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon, the FBI and Oregon State Police moved in to arrest them. VPC
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