The FBI moved in on the four holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on the 40th day of occupation, resulting in a tense standoff captured on a live Internet radio feed.
The Portland office of the FBI said one of the people still holed up in the refuge headquarters “rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia” at about 4:30 p.m. PST. “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. No shots have been fired,” the FBI said in a statement.
Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, stressed “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.”
“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,” Bretzing said.
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who was in Portland, was on the phone with the holdouts in a live feed, trying to talk down the agitated militia members. Fiore also tried to advise the holdouts against walking out with any weapons.
“I will not walk out of hear without my weapons and I will not go to jail,” insisted the one woman at the refuge, Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho.
The others are Sean Anderson, 48, of Riggins, Idaho, David Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio, and Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nev.
According to the Oregonian, Sean Anderson has an outstanding bench warrant stemming from an August 2014 arrest for misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer, possession of THC and possession of drug paraphernalia. Fry has a history of drug convictions and has used social media hashtags including “Hitler was right,” “Pray 4 ISIS” and “BombIsrael.”
Fiore offered to come to the site and peacefully walk out with the quartet, an offer that the militia members said was refused by a federal agent on a bullhorn communicating with the four.
One of the holdouts said he received a phone call from Rev. Franklin Graham saying that the FBI would allow him to come on site and lead out the holdouts at 7 a.m. They doubted that the offer was legitimate.
Fiore said she was driving toward the refuge and received assurances from the FBI that they wouldn’t move in until she arrived. “If we’re still alive, we’ll have coffee,” one of the occupiers told Fiore.
A spokesman for the militia group was shot and killed and members of the Bundy clan arrested in a confrontation with federal agents as they were driving to a meeting many miles away from the compound on Jan. 26. The FBI then set up roadblocks around the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and told the remaining protesters there that they were free to go. The holdouts wanted assurances that they wouldn’t face any charges before leaving.