Wildlife refuge seige ends as final holdout taken into custody
The 41-day standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended Thursday morning when the final holdout walked to an FBI barricade and was taken into custody.
The ending at about 11 a.m. Feb. 11, was delayed for a very tense hour as the last holdout, David L. Fry of Blanchester, Ohio, refused to leave a cold, muddy camp on the refuge compound, saying he planned to make a stand. At one point, the 27-year-old Fry told supporters talking with him on a live YouTube broadcast that he "felt suicidal" and planned to fight.
"This is the point in life where it's liberty or death," Fry said. "I'm making my stand."
Nearly an hour earlier, three of the four holdouts surrendered to FBI agents at barricades near the camp. All of the four were taken into custody without incident. Fry's arrest was broadcast online, and listeners could hear as an agent politely talked with Fry and handcuffed him.
Fry smoked one last cigarette in the camp before he decided to leave.
Fry, Sean and Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta told Nevada state Rep. Michelle Fiore during early evening hours that they hoped to surrender peacefully. Fiore told the four holdouts during a telephone call that was broadcast through a YouTube connection that she would be at the refuge by 8 a.m. Thursday to help them surrender.
Fiore was joined by the Rev. Franklin Graham, who told the four holdouts that he "was proud of them."
At the same time, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 10, in Portland. Bundy was in Portland with Fiore to protest his sons' arrests for the 41-day takeover of the wildlife refuge.
FBI officials have not provided details of Cliven Bundy's arrest or the charges he faces. Cliven Bundy, 74, was part of an armed standoff in April 2014 on his Bunkerville, Nevada, ranch with U.S. Bureau of Land Management employees because of a dispute about unpaid grazing fees.
He will appear in U.S. District Court Thursday, Feb. 11. Bundy faces at least six federal charges filed in Nevada, including using a firearm in a violent crime, assaulting a federal officer and obstruction of justice.
Change of heart
The holdouts' change of heart Wednesday came just hours after FBI agents tightened their grip on their small camp. Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said agents moved their barricades closer to the small encampment after one of the holdouts rode an ATV at about 4:30 p.m. outside the barricades established by the militia. When agents attempted to approach the driver, he sped back to the encampment, Bretzing said.
No shots have been fired. 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, Bretzing said.
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, he said. 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.
The occupation of the refuge compound hit 41 days on Feb. 11. Fry, the Andersons and Banta have been camped since Jan. 27 in a muddy corner of a loop road far from the compound buildings.
Fry has posted several videos on YouTube taunting FBI agents and saying that he and the other three holdouts wanted to be allowed to leave peacefully without federal charges. All four now face indictment in federal court on a charge of using threats and intimidation to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs.
Fiore tried to keep the four calm as agents used a bullhorn to communicate with the holdouts.