The nearly monthlong standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in the northwestern U.S. state of Oregon between authorities and a group of armed occupiers appears to be winding down.
The FBI and Oregon State Police say two members of the group, Duane Leo Ehmer and Dylan Wade Anderson, were arrested late Wednesday afternoon as they were leaving the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. A third man, Jason Patrick, was arrested a few hours later.
Authorities say the men had been in contact with them during the day, and that each one had chosen to turn himself in.
The arrests occurred a day after the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, and seven of his followers were arrested at a highway checkpoint as they were headed to a community event.
After making his first court appearance hours after his arrest, Bundy issued a statement through his lawyer urging his remaining followers to leave the refuge.
«Please stand down,» Bundy said. «Go home and hug your kids. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.»
Authorities say all those arrested will be charged with conspiracy «to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.»
The standoff began early this month when Bundy and his followers seized the Malheur refuge to protest the jailing of two local ranchers who were convicted of arson.
Michael Arnold, left, and Lissa Casey, attorneys representing Ammon Bundy, address the media covering the hearing of militia members outside United States District Court in Portland, Oregon, Jan. 27, 2016.
The group, which has included people from as far away as Michigan, calls itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. It came to the frozen high desert of eastern Oregon to decry what it calls onerous federal land restrictions and to object to the prison sentences of two local ranchers convicted of setting fires.
Law enforcement officials have kept a low profile near the refuge, mindful of similar protests in years past that sometimes have ended in large-scale violence. But as the occupation of the refuge dragged on, a growing number of residents in the nearby town of Burns had called for authorities to end the siege.
Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, who was also arrested Wednesday, are the sons of anti-government Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
The elder Bundy was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights on federally owned lands.
Meanwhile, details began to emerge about the confrontation Tuesday on a remote highway that resulted in the arrest of Bundy and other leading figures in the group of occupiers, and in the death of militant Robert Finicum, The Associated Press reported.
Bundy followers gave conflicting accounts of how Finicum died. One said Finicum charged at FBI agents, who then shot him. A member of the Bundy family said Finicum did nothing to provoke the agents, the AP reported.
Witness to shootout
An Oregon man who says he witnessed the shootout says he heard about a half-dozen shots but didn’t see anyone get hit, and that the shooting happened quickly — over maybe 12 or 15 seconds.
Raymond Doherty told KOIN-TV that he was about 100 feet back and couldn’t see who specifically was shooting. But, he added, «I saw them shooting at each other.»
There was no immediate way to confirm the accounts. Authorities refused to release any details about the encounter or even to verify that it was Finicum who was killed, the AP reported.