In Oregon, FBI surrounds armed protesters, won’t discuss fatal shooting – Los Angeles Times

As law enforcement surrounded the remaining armed protesters at an Oregon wildlife refuge Wednesday, officials declined to release any details about how a spokesman for the protest group was killed during a confrontation with federal and state agencies a day earlier.

The surprise move to arrest ranking protest leaders on a rural stretch of highway Tuesday afternoon was “a very deliberate and measured response” to the armed occupation that had lasted since Jan. 2 with no end in sight, Gregory T. Bretzing, special agent in charge of Portland’s FBI division, said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

“We’ve worked diligently to bring the situation” at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., to “a peaceful end,” Bretzing said. He added that the FBI and Oregon State Police’s surprise arrests of protesters caught outside the refuge Tuesday was done “out of harm’s way” of county residents, “removing the threat of danger from anybody who might be present.”

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But he said he could not release details about how protester spokesman and Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed, citing an ongoing investigation.

Several members of the group — including one of its most prominent leaders, Ammon Bundy, 40 — were expected to make their initial appearance in federal court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to face charges of government intimidation.

Meanwhile, the standoff continues.

On Wednesday morning, law enforcement blocked the roads around the refuge, where armed protesters were still operating heavy machinery and refusing to leave, according to an activist’s livestream from the surrounded site.

The FBI and Oregon State Police’s “containment procedure” is likely aimed at preventing more armed activists from bolstering the holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, as well as keeping track of anyone who decides to leave.

“This has been tearing our community apart,” Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward said of the armed occupation at Wednesday’s news conference, where he urged “everybody in this illegal occupation to move on.”

“There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community,” Ward said. “We have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on those in an appropriate manner.

“We don’t arm up — we don’t arm up and rebel. We work through the appropriate channels. This can’t happen anymore. This can’t happen in America, and this can’t happen in Harney County.”

On Tuesday, law enforcement stopped a group of occupiers who had temporarily left the occupied refuge, apparently to attend a community meeting.

“Multiple agencies, law enforcement agencies, put a lot of work into doing the best tactical plan they could to take these guys down peacefully and find some resolution to these issues in our community,” Ward said. He added of what happened next: “It didn’t have to happen. We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad.”


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