After 41 days, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon is finally being ceded back to the birds and trees. Of the final four holdout militiamen, three surrendered to the FBI this morning following a tense overnight standoff. David Fry resisted until just after 2 p.m. He didn’t come quietly, either — in a series of exchanges conducted with FBI agents on his doorstep and broadcast live via YouTube, Fry told militia activists Gavin Seim and KrisAnne Hall he was “feeling suicidal,” that he was holding a gun to his head, that he’d been deprived of his marijuana, that UFOs are real, and that President Obama is a traitor. Then, after a final cookie and one last cigarette, he walked out, joining his three compatriots in FBI custody.
Also, Cliven Bundy, whose son Ammon Bundy led the occupation, was arrested on Wednesday night at Portland International Airport en route to Burns. Back in 2014, the 74-year-old Nevada rancher had his own armed standoff with federal officials over the use of public lands. He’s been charged with conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer, the same charge his sons now face, over the earlier incident.
Militants first took control of the federal building on January 2, but on January 26, Ammon Bundy and four other group leaders were arrested and spokesperson Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed in a confrontation with the FBI. Other occupiers fled, and Sandy Anderson, her husband Sean Anderson, Jeff Banta, and David Fry were the only ones left.
The FBI said the incident began when one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades surrounding the property at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The driver sped off when the agents tried to approach, prompting them to close in on “the area where the occupiers are camping.” The occupiers initially insisted they should be allowed to leave with no repercussions. “The only way we’re leaving here is dead or without charges,” said Fry, who also told the FBI to “get the hell out of Oregon.”
Fry seemed increasingly agitated in his conversation with an FBI negotiator. “You guys killed LaVoy,” he yelled at one point. “You let Obama bring terrorists into this country. You continue to let Hillary run for president.” On Sunday, the four occupiers posted videos taunting the Feds on YouTube.
“It has never been the F.B.I.’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the F.B.I. has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in Oregon, said in a statement. “However, we reached a point 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.”
On Thursday morning armored vehicles were on the scene and agents were heard demanding over a loudspeaker that the occupiers “come out with your hands up.” Sean Anderson said that after negotiations with the FBI, he and the three others agreed to hand themselves over at an FBI checkpoint at 8 a.m. Thursday. “We’re not surrendering, we’re turning ourselves in. It’s going against everything we believe in,” he said. As for Fry, he walked safely into FBI custody hours later after requesting officers say “Hallelujah.” No shots were fired in his arrest
This post has been updated throughout.