Jailed Oregon militia leader urges followers to leave wildlife refuge

BURNS, Ore. - A day after eight members of an armed anti-government group were arrested, their jailed leader on Wednesday urged a handful of remaining militants to abandon the Oregon wildlife refuge they have occupied for more than three weeks and where they are now surrounded by federal agents.

See Full Article

After militant leader Ammon Bundy made his first court appearance in Portland on Wednesday, his attorney, Mike Arnold, read this statement from his client: "Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is now in the courts."

It was unclear whether the remnant of Bundy's followers still holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns was ready to heed his advice.

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.

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.

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 (http://is.gd/AgNSdm) 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.

Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in Portland unsealed a criminal complaint that said the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles and that they were prepared to fight at the refuge or in the nearby town of Burns.

Someone told authorities about the equipment on Jan. 2, when the group took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to the document.

Bundy and the seven others are charged with felony counts of "conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats."

The criminal complaint stresses that point. It states that the 16 employees at the wildlife refuge "have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property."

Federal law officials and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward held a news conference on Wednesday in which they called on the rest of the occupiers to go home. There is a huge law enforcement presence in the region, and the FBI has now set up checkpoints outside the refuge.

FBI agent Greg Bretzing said people could leave through checkpoints "where they will be identified." He did not say whether any of them face arrest. He said negotiators were available to talk if they have "questions or concerns."

Bretzing also defended the FBI-led operation that resulted in the arrest of Bundy and other leaders, and in the death of Finicum. "I will say that the armed occupiers were given ample opportunities to leave peacefully," he said.

Ward said multiple law-enforcement agencies put together "the best tactical plan they could."

Bundy followers took to social media to offer conflicting accounts of Finicum's final moments.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mike McConnell said he was driving a vehicle carrying Ammon Bundy and another occupier, Brian Cavalier. He said Finicum was driving a truck and with him were Ryan Bundy - Ammon's brother - as well as three others.

He said the convoy was driving through a forest when they were stopped by agents in heavy-duty trucks. He said agents first pulled him out of the vehicle, followed by Ammon Bundy and Cavalier.

When agents approached the truck driven by Filicum, he drove off with officers in pursuit. McConnell said he did not see what happened next, but he heard from others who were in that vehicle that they encountered a roadblock.

The truck got stuck in a snowbank, and Finicum got out and "charged them. He went after them," McConnell said.

Relatives of Ammon Bundy offered similar accounts, but they said Finicum did nothing to provoke FBI agents.

Briana Bundy, a sister of Ammon Bundy, said he called his wife after his arrest. He said the group was stopped by state and federal officers.

She said people in the two vehicles complied with instructions to get out with their hands up.

"LaVoy shouted, 'Don't shoot. We're unarmed,' " Briana Bundy said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They began to fire on them. Ammon said it happened real fast."

"Ammon said, 'They murdered him in cold blood. We did everything they asked, and they murdered him. We complied with their demands,' " she said.

McConnell had a different perspective.

"Any time someone takes off with a vehicle away from law enforcement after they've exercised a stop, it's typically considered an act of aggression, and foolish," he said in the Facebook video.

McConnell said he was questioned by authorities, and he believes he was not charged because he was not considered a leader of the group. Briana Bundy confirmed that McConnell was in the convoy on Tuesday.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy are the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights.

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.

----

Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, and Martha Bellisle in Seattle contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people. Source
  • NFL responds to Donald Trump's call to fire players who take a knee during anthem

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest. In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent. Source
  • Soul singer Charles Bradley dead at age 68

    World News CBC News
    Singer Charles Bradley, seen here performing in June in Pasadena, Calif., has died according to a tweet from his official account. Source
  • New Zealand PM wins most votes but needs help to form gov't

    World News CTV News
    AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Prime Minister Bill English's National Party won the most votes in New Zealand's general election on Saturday but not enough to form a government without help from other political parties. That means New Zealanders may need to wait for days or even weeks to confirm whether English will retain the top job as the various parties try to negotiate with each other to form a coalition. Source
  • McCain's choice: Ailing senator plays spoiler again for GOP

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- John McCain faced a choice that balanced friendship, party loyalty and his convictions. He made the decision some of his closest advisers expected. Looking at the twilight of his career and a grim cancer diagnosis, the Republican senator from Arizona who prides himself on an independent streak could not be moved to go along with a last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system. Source
  • New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people. Source
  • Earthquake in North Korea briefly stokes nuclear fears

    World News CBC News
    A minor but mysterious earthquake in North Korea on Saturday, close to where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, briefly set off concerns it might have been caused by an explosion, though South Korean officials tried to allay those fears. Source
  • Donald Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    World News Toronto Sun
    SOMERSET, N.J. — President Donald Trump says if a basketball player doesn’t want to visit the White House to celebrate an NBA title, then don’t bother showing up. Trump responded Saturday on Twitter to Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, who has made clear he’s not interested in a traditional White House trip. Source
  • 'Get that son of a bitch off the field': Donald Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest. In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent. Source
  • People flee homes and hotels as earthquake aftershocks hit Mexico

    World News CBC News
    Alarms sounded in Mexico City as a new earthquake struck Saturday morning, prompting people with fresh memories of this week's devastating tremor to flee homes and hotels. The quake was much weaker than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that hit on Tuesday, killing at least 295 people and knocking down buildings across the capital. Source