The 26-day standoff between federal authorities and a group of Oregon militiamen occupying a building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge turned violent on Tuesday, leaving one militiaman dead and another with a gunshot wound in the arm.
Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the defacto spokesman of the militiamen, was killed; Ryan Bundy was wounded.
Federal authorities said Oregon police and agents with the FBI stopped a group of militiamen who left the refuge and were traveling to a community meeting in John Day, OR, where Ammon Bundy was scheduled to address a crowd.
Officials said the car in which the group was traveling was pulled over by police and a shots were fired killing Finicium and wounding Ryan Bundy.
Local media reported gunfire erupted within minutes of the vehicle being stopped, but details on which group fired first are unclear.
Police arrested Ammon Edward Bundy, Ryan C. Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan Waylen Payne at the scene; Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy and Peter Santilli were arrested in Burns. An eighth man, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, turned himself in to authorities in Peoria, AZ, on Tuesday.
The seven arrested in Oregon were being held without bail and charged with conspiracy to impede police from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.
Santilli, a journalist and radio host from Cincinnati, OH, denies being involved with the militiamen, but has remained with the group since shortly after the militia took control of the building on the grounds of the refuge.
The group, led by Ammon Bundy, took control of the main building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2 in response to the lengthened sentences of two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were arrested for burning their property.
The Hammonds claim the fire was set to eliminate vermin and invasive plant species; the federal government claims the fire was set to cover up an illegal deer hunt and to protest management of federal land.
The Hammonds were charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
The Hammonds’ fire spread to consume dozens of acres of land under the dominion of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the two were charged with arson. Their action drew a five-year sentence.
A hearing in late 2012 presided by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan reduced the sentenced, but the Justice Department appealed and prevailed, sending the Hammonds to jail for the full sentence under mandatory-minimum sentencing rules.
Following the arrests of the seven militia members, the FBI tightened the dragnet surrounding the refuge and appealed to the remaining militia members to surrender.
[BBC] [Reuters] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy NBC News]