Four antigovernment occupiers at an Oregon wildlife refuge peacefully surrendered Thursday, a day after the movement’s patriarch Cliven Bundy was arrested on federal charges upon his arrival at Portland’s airport.
Three of the final holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Sean and Sandy Anderson, a couple from Emmett, Idaho, and Jeff Wayne Banta, of Elko, Nev., surrendered shortly after sunrise to FBI agents who brought evangelist Franklin Graham and Nevada politician Michele Fiore to the 187,756-acre Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns, Ore.
The fourth occupier, David Lee Fry, of Blanchester, Ohio, initially didn’t surrender and made suicidal threats over a live Internet feed for almost two hours before finally walking out with his hands raised.
“I declare war against the federal government. Right now,” Fry said in a streaming YouTube conversation with antigovernment activist Gavin Seim, who lives in Ephrata, Wash. and self-described constitutional educator KrisAnne Hall.
Fry said he was armed, pointing a gun at his head, and didn’t agree with his other three occupiers who surrendered to Nevada politician Michele Fiore and evangelist Franklin Graham.
“I can’t come out, guys,” Fry said. “I’m actually pointing a gun at my head. I’m tired of living here. You guys take everything away from me for doing nothing wrong.” He requested marijuana and pizza before finally surrendering to an FBI negotiator.
The four arrests capped months of antigovernment activism by extremists who were emboldened in the two years following an armed standoff between antigovernment extremists at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nev., in April 2014.
There were no arrests immediately after that standoff two years ago, leading to the widespread belief that the inaction by federal authorities emboldened the Bundy clan and its militia-fueled followers, eventually becoming the catalyst for the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., that began Jan. 2.
Behind the scenes, however, court documents show that the FBI was conducting an active investigation. It now appears federal authorities had drafted criminal charges and merely were waiting for an opportunity to arrest Cliven D. Bundy, 74, who left his Nevada home on Wednesday, intending to go to the refuge. Bundy passed through an airport metal detector to board his flight, proving he was unarmed during his flight, and an FBI SWAT team was waiting for him as he deplaned in Portland.
Cliven Bundy faces six federal felonies detailed in a 32-page criminal complaint filed Thursday in the District of Nevada, identifying four other unidentified co-conspirators in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff. They likely include his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, whose roles in the Oregon refuge takeover led to indictments accusing them of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States.
In a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Las Vegas, the elder Bundy is accused of masterminding a “massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers” in 2014 near his ranch near Bunkerville, Nev.
The assault was carried out, the complaint alleges, so Cliven Bundy could “extort the [federal] officers into abandoning approximately 400 head of cattle that were in their lawful care and custody.” The officers were attempting to round up Bundy’s cattle that were grazing on public lands, administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, because he had not paid the U.S. Government more than $1 million in grazing fees.
Cliven Bundy will face a removal hearing in Portland and be returned to Nevada where is charged conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; assault on a federal law enforcement officer; use and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; obstruction of justice; interference with commerce by extortion and aiding and abetting.
After the final arrests, Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, issued a statement saying the 41-day occupation of the refuge "has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe."
He gave no indication when a dozen U.S. Fish & Wildlife employees, who work year-round at the refuge, would be allowed to return to the facility or when it would be re-opened to the public.
"Much work is left to assess the crime scene and damage to the refuge and tribal artifacts. We are committed to seeing the job done and to pursue justice for the crimes committed during the illegal occupation," Williams said. "It is a time for healing, reconciliation amongst neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal."
The FBI scheduled a press conference for Thursday afternoon.
Cliven Bundy had urged the last four holdouts to stay put after his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and other activists were arrested on Jan. 26 at an FBI roadblock encounter that resulted in the shooting death of Bundy ally Robert LaVoy Finicum.
After he was arrested, Ammon Bundy contradicted his father, issuing a jailhouse statement urging the holdouts to surrender. But he later flip-flopped on that position.
Like the others previously arrested, holdouts Sean Anderson, 48, and his wife, Sandra Lynn Pfeifer Anderson, 47, both of Riggins, Idaho; and Jeff Wayne Banta, 46, of Elko, Nev., and David Fry were expected to be taken 200 miles for booking on federal charges at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland.
Fourteen other defendants, including the last four holdouts at the refuge, were indicted on Feb. 4 in the District of Oregon on single charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States. Most of them remain in the Multnomah County Jail in Portland, where records show Cliven Bundy was booked at 10:54 p.m. Wednesday.
His arrest came as the FBI, including members of its elite Hostage Rescue Team, further tightened their perimeter around the refuge where the four final occupiers remained camping on the ground in makeshift tents.
After a screaming encounter with FBI agents on Wednesday, broadcast live on the Internet, the holdouts promised to walk out at daybreak. But the planned 8 a.m., Thursday, surrenders were delayed by the late arrivals of Fiore and Graham, who had to be escorted through heavily guarded police roadblocks by FBI agents.
“I have been talking with the last four holdouts in the #Oregonstandoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge every day by phone for the last week at their request and at the request of the FBI. Last night I was on the phone with them for several hours, was able to have prayer with them and they have said they would come out today. I am on my way there ..." Graham wrote on Facebook at 5 a.m.
The FBI released a statement saying that at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 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.”
“At this time, the FBI has moved to contain the remaining occupiers by placing agents at barricades both immediately ahead of and behind the area where the occupiers are camping. Negotiations between the occupiers and the FBI continue,” the statement 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,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
“However, we reached a point [Wednesday] 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," said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
(Banner Image Credit: KGW-TV of Portland, Ore.)