SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES – The leader of an armed occupation at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon was arrested on Tuesday during a confrontation in which one person was killed and another was wounded, the FBI said.
Protesters were still occupying the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon after leader Ammon Bundy’s arrest and the Federal Bureau of Investigation was setting up a perimeter, a law enforcement official said.
The takeover at Malheur that started Jan. 2 is the latest flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over the U.S. government’s control of millions acres of land in the West.
Four other people, all in leadership positions of the occupation, were taken into custody along with Bundy following the confrontation along Highway 395 in northeast Oregon around 4:25 p.m. local time, according to the FBI. A fifth individual was arrested by the Oregon State Police in a separate incident in Burns, Oregon about 1½ hours later.
All of those arrested face federal charges of conspiracy to use force, intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties, the FBI said.
The Oregonian newspaper reported that Bundy had been en route to a community meeting in John Day, Oregon, with several other members of the occupation, where he was scheduled to be a guest speaker, when authorities stopped his vehicle.
The newspaper said 43-year-old Ryan Bundy, Ammon’s brother, was injured in the arrest, suffering a minor gunshot wound. Authorities did not release the identity of the person killed.
Some 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Highway 395 was shut down in both directions following the incident, a dispatcher for the state department of transportation said.
The occupiers of the wildlife refuge said they were supporting two local ranchers who were returned to prison this month for setting fires that spread to federal land. The ranchers’ lawyer has said the occupiers do not speak for the family.
Burns Mayor Craig LaFollette said that while he had limited information about the night’s events, he hoped the standoff would come to a peaceful end.
“I think my perception is that people’s patience was running thin and that the community as a whole was looking for some resolution and to have these people leave,” he said.
Law enforcement officials had largely kept their distance from the buildings at the refuge, 48 km (30 miles) south of the small town of Burns in rural southeast Oregon’s Harney County, in the hope of avoiding a violent confrontation.
Local residents have expressed a mixture of sympathy for the Hammond family, suspicion of the federal government’s motives and frustration with the occupation.