Oregon militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum has been shot dead after a traffic stop escalated into a shoot-out that saw Ryan Bundy wounded and eight leaders of the occupation movement arrested.
The group’s leader Ammon Bundy was among the militiamen arrested during the encounter on Tuesday afternoon as they drove to attend a community meeting in the neighboring town.
It is the climax of a tense stand-off between federal agents and the activists more than three weeks after they took over a government building in Burns, Oregon, to protest two ranchers being jailed.
According to local media, shots were fired within minutes of the traffic stop, killing Finicum and wounding Ryan Bundy.
It is not clear who opened fire first.
Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and three other leaders of the occupation – Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, and Shawna Cox – were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers,Oregon Live reports.
KILLED: Oregon militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum (pictured) has been shot dead after a traffic stop escalated into a shoot-out between the activists and FBI agents on a highway on Tuesday afternoon
ARRESTED, CHARGED: Ammon Bundy and six other militiamen were arrested at the scene and charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers’. It is three weeks after they took over a government building in Oregon
WOUNDED, ARRESTED, CHARGED: Ryan Bundy received minor wounds from the shoot-out, reports claim
Sgt. Tom Hutchison stands in front of an Oregon State Police roadblock on Highway 395 between John Day and Burns by Oregon State police officers Tuesday after LaVoy Finicum and Ryan Bundy were shot
Another Oregon State police officer stands by a vehicle on Highway 395 after arrested five of the occupiers
The group was driving to a community meeting on Tuesday when they were stopped by traffic cops. Pictured: the highway between Burns, Oregon, and John Day, where they were driving to attend a meeting
WHO WAS LAVOY FINICUM?
LaVoy Finicum, 55, of northern Arizona, has been the right-hand man to the occupation’s leader Ammon Bundy since the stand-off began on January 2.
Acting as spokesman for the group, he gave numerous press conferences to communicate their position.
At one point he personally climbed up a pole to dismantle surveillance cameras in an apparent show of defiance against the government.
But he has not always held such a strong anti-government stance.
Last year, he told the St George News that he complied with federal land controls until Cliven Bundy’s stand-off in Nevada in 2014.
The episode, he said, struck a chord with him.
He joined the Bundys and ‘did a lot of soul-searching’ until he ‘realized that Cliven Bundy was standing on a very strong constitutional principle—and yet, here I was continuing to pay a grazing fee to the BLM.’
Finicum’s wife of 23 years recently arrived in Oregon, traveling up from Arizona, to celebrate his 56th birthday.
Beyond life as a militiaman and rancher, Finicum was a father of 11 and grandfather of 23 who also found time to write a novel, Only By Blood And Suffering, about a time when guns are no more, cars have stopped working, the market has imploded, and the Chinese control everything.
Officials would not confirm the identity of the militiaman shot dead. However, numerous sources close to the occupiers identified Finicum on Twitter, and Nevada state Rep. Michele Fiore confirmed it was him, according to Gawker.
Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Peter Santilli were arrested in Burns soon after the traffic stop and shoot-out.
An eighth group member, Jon Ritzheimer, was arrested in Peoria, Arizona, after turning himself in to the police department, Fox reported.
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 hospital where Ryan Bundy and LaVoy Finicum were taken, St Charles Medical Center, is now on lockdown.
Some 25 miles (40 km) of Highway 395 was shut down in both directions following the incident, a dispatcher for the state department of transportation said.
According to Oregon Live, the leaders had been en route to John Day – 70 miles from Burns – to appear as guest speakers at a meeting with hundreds of local residents.
The crowd was informed the group would not be able to make it to the event after the dramatic traffic stop.
Frustrated local and state officials have been increasingly urging the FBI to do something to resolve the situation.
Bundy and his group have held frequent news conferences at the site, travelled to meet with sympathizers and others to espouse their views and some even attended a community meeting last week, where local residents shouted at them to leave.
Federal authorities have taken a hands-off approach so far and say they want a peaceful resolution.
Bundy has been in contact with an FBI negotiator and local law enforcement.
On Friday Bundy went to the Burns Municipal Airport, where the FBI has set up a staging area, and met briefly with a federal agent.
Bundy left because the agent wouldn’t talk with him in front of the media. Sieges by federal authorities in the early 1990s led to deadly standoffs in at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.
The group took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2 after a peaceful protest in nearby Burns, Oregon, over the conviction of two local ranchers on arson charges.
Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, said they lit fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.
CHARGED: Ammon Bundy’s bodyguard Brian Cavalier (left) and Jon Ritzheimer (right) were also arrested
CHARGED: Shawna Cox, regularly seen at Ammon Bundy’s side, was also detained during the traffic stop
Within minutes, shots were fired, wounding Ryan Bundy and killing an unidentified militiaman. The hospital where Bundy and the unidentified victim were taken, St Charles Medical Center (pictured), is now on lockdown
It is the climax of a tense stand-off between the two groups more than three weeks after the Bundys took over a government building to protest two ranchers being jailed. Pictured: federal officers blocking the road
Ammon Bundy and three others – Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, and Shawna Cox – were detained and charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers
Bundy, pictured with fellow leader Lavoy Finicum (left), walked out of talks with the FBI because they wouldn’t let him record the conversation
The two were convicted three years ago and served time — the father three months, the son one year.
But in October, a federal judge in Oregon ruled their terms were too short under U.S. law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each. Among the demands by the Bundy group is for the Hammonds to be released.
The alleged arrests on Tuesday come after an Army veteran was arrested for a DUI while he was heading to join the militia occupying federal land in Oregon.
Joseph Arthur Stetson, 54, was caught on camera threatening to kill cops on Monday as he was driving to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.