By January 30, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Armed Oregon Refuge Protester Killed During Arrest

One of several roadblocks and checkpoints established around the Malheur Wildlife Reserve

One of several roadblocks and checkpoints established around the Malheur Wildlife Reserve

Several leaders of an anti-government protest group have been arrested by FBI and Oregon State Police. One of the protesters was killed.

The protest group is armed and calls itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. On January 2 they seized and occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, saying they were protesting federal control of millions of acres of land in the western states. About half of all land in the west is controlled by the U.S. government.

Five arrests occurred on January 26 at a traffic stop on a stretch of country road (U.S. 395) about 45 miles north of the wildlife refuge. All of those arrested surrendered except one man who sped off and eventually drove into a snowdrift. When he exited the car he initially raised his hands but then reached toward his waistband and a SWAT team opened fire, fatally wounding him. A loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun was found in his pocket.

The FBI released a video on January 28 that counteracted comments by relatives and fellow protesters of the dead man who said he had been “murdered” and that he was “cooperating with the police and had his hands up when he was shot.”

In a separate January 26 takedown, two other protesters were arrested in Burns, a town about 30 miles from the refuge. Another protest leader surrendered himself to local lawmen in Arizona.

Checkpoints and roadblocks were established along key routes in and out of the refuge on January 27. Three men who occupied the refuge were taken into custody when they surrendered themselves to FBI agents at one of the checkpoints. Another five were allowed to leave but were not arrested.

According to authorities the eleven protesters who were arrested face a federal charge of conspiracy to use force, intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties. The charge carries a maximum six-year prison sentence and fines.

County Sheriff David Ward said, “Multiple agencies put a lot of work into doing the best tactical plan that they could to arrest them peacefully. [The death] didn’t have to happen. We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad.”

The FBI called its response “deliberate and measured.” An official said the FBI chose the time and place they would move to make the arrests. In a released statement the FBI wrote that the agency and its partners “continue to work around the clock to empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible.”

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