The last four armed occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon said they would turn themselves in Thursday morning after the FBI surrounded them and they yelled at law enforcement officers in armoured vehicles to back off and prayed with supporters over an open phone line.
The developments 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.
On Wednesday, the FBI “moved to contain” the remaining four occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“One of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. FBI agents attempted to approach the driver and he returned to the encampment at the refuge at a high rate of speed,” the security service said in a release.
“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,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “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 who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area.”
Oregon Militia Takeover of Federal Building | FindTheBest
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.”
READ MORE: Remaining Oregon Standoff occupiers release defiant videos mocking FBI
The remaining occupiers: David Fry, Jeff Banta and Sean and Sandy Anderson, were talking on a live stream on YouTube Wednesday evening.
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.”
“We promise we won’t shoot first. The blood will be on their hands,” Sean Anderson declared.
Sandy Anderson said the FBI is closing in.
“They are rolling forward,” she said. “They are about 50 yards from us.”
The group remained surrounded by the FBI as the evening continued.
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore joined them on the live stream as well. She said the FBI told her that nothing would happen overnight.
“This is from the FBI. They are not going to be aggressive tonight,” Fiore said.
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.
The four holdouts were the last remnants of an armed group that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon on Jan. 2 to oppose federal land-use policies.
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 travelling 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.
The four recently posted a series of defiant videos in which Fry shows a defensive perimeter they have built and takes a joyride in a government vehicle. Fry says the FBI told him he faces additional charges because of the barricades.
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.
– With files from the Associated Press