Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a rancher who acted as a spokesman for the self-identified militia that has illegally occupied a federally owned wildlife refuge in Oregon since January 2, was killed on Tuesday during a confrontation with US authorities.
The FBI said gunshots rang out after officers stopped a car carrying protest leader Ammon Bundy and others near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Bundy and four other senior members were taken into custody following the confrontation along Highway 395, near the reserve in northeast Oregon around 4:25pm local time, the FBI said.
Activists said FBI agents were setting up a perimeter on Tuesday night around the refuge, where some people were still holding out, continuing their protest against federal control of large tracts of the country, a law enforcement official told Reuters.
One of the remaining occupiers, Jason Patrick, told Reuters by phone they would stay until the "redress of grievances." "I've heard 'peaceful resolution' for weeks now and now there's a cowboy who is my friend who is dead — so prepare for the peaceful resolution," Patrick said.
The takeover at Malheur that started January 2 was a flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over the US government's control of millions of acres of territory in the west. Protesters say they are defending the US Constitution.
'The government can kill who they want for whatever reason they want with impunity'
Federal officials said they had probable cause to arrest Finicum, who told NBC News earlier this month that he would rather die than be detained.
A sixth person was arrested by Oregon State Police in Burns, Oregon, about 1 1/2 hours later. The FBI said a seventh person was later arrested, 50-year-old Peter Santilli, a journalist who livestreamed events at the refuge. The FBI said they also arrested an eighth person in Peoria, Arizona, in relation to the occupation.
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 protester Patrick likened Finicum's death to the killing of Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old African American boy fatally shot by police outside a Cleveland recreation center in 2014. The officers were not charged. "The government can kill who they want for whatever reason they want with impunity," Patrick said.
Asked how the occupiers would respond to law enforcement entering the refuge he did not indicate a clear plan. "I don't know what to tell you but if somebody saying 'peaceful resolution' comes in and points guns at me..." he said before trailing off.
The Oregonian reported that Bundy had been en route to a community meeting in John Day, Oregon, 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, suffered a minor gunshot wound.
Watch the VICE News documentary The Oregon Standoff: A Community Divided
The Bundy-led militia claimed to have occupied the refuge as an act of rebellion in support of two local ranchers who returned to prison earlier this month for setting fires that reached federal land. A lawyer for the ranchers stressed that the occupiers do not speak for the family, however.
Before leading his occupation in Oregon to the consternation of law enforcement authorities and frustrated locals, Ammon Bundy stood alongside his father Cliven when the rancher defied the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada in 2014, precipitating a standoff over cattle grazing on federal land.
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