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Armed Occupation Of Oregon Wildlife Refuge Takes Turn With Arrest Of Militants


We're learning more about the violent turn of events near a wildlife refuge in Eastern Oregon. One militant is dead after an encounter with police and FBI agents. Eight others are under arrest. A handful of people remain inside the refuge headquarters where they've been for the better part of the month. Oregon public broadcasting's Amanda Peacher is in the nearby town of Burns, and she joins us with the latest. Amanda, what does law enforcement say about what's happened?

AMANDA PEACHER, BYLINE: Well, they are saying very little about the confrontation last night. We do know that the leaders of the occupation, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were on their way to a meeting in the nearby town of John Day when they were arrested. The FBI also said that the response to the occupation has been deliberate and measured despite what some in the community have assumed and that - they also said that they've been working to bring the occupation to a peaceful end for some time now. And lastly, they did say that those arrested yesterday would be facing charges.

SIEGEL: What do you know about the man who was killed last night?

PEACHER: Well, he has been a vocal spokesperson with the occupation. He's an Arizona rancher named LaVoy Finicum. He was there since early in the occupation, and he traveled from his ranch in Arizona to be part of this occupation.

SIEGEL: And what do we know about those who are remaining inside the refuge?

PEACHER: Well, there are a handful of individuals who say that they intend to stay for the long run. They've chosen a new leader. We know that they remain armed, but we don't know to what extent. Some of the people inside the refuge have told reporters that they are prepared to die.

We also know that the children who were inside are not in the building headquarters any longer. The FBI is asking those who are remaining in the refuge to leave immediately, but they also said that those individuals would have to go through an FBI checkpoint as they go. So it's not clear if those occupiers would face charges on their way out.

SIEGEL: Amanda, you've been to that checkpoint today. What did you see?

PEACHER: Well, it was a very tense situation. FBI agents in full combat gear were guarding the road, blocking it and warning reporters that if we even tried to get close, that we could face charges or arrests ourselves. I did see a convoy of large SUVs going past the checkpoint seemingly on their way to the refuge, saw several transports of huge floodlights on a truck bed being transported in and some portable toilets being brought in. So the FBI response here seems to be robust.

SIEGEL: And what about people who live near the refuge? How are they reacting to this latest turn of events?

PEACHER: The community here is very tense. I would say that though some residents have expressed support of the militant's call for local control of federal lands, for the most part, the community of Burns has been asking these occupiers to go for weeks now. And schools and businesses are open. People are moving about the community, but it's a tense situation here. Even those who really wanted to see an end to this occupation and asked the occupiers to leave did not want this to get too violent. So I think people are worried that it could continue.

SIEGEL: OK. That's Amanda Peacher of Oregon Public Broadcasting in Burns, Ore. Amanda, thanks.

PEACHER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amanda Peacher is an Arthur F. Burns fellow reporting and producing in Berlin in 2013. Amanda is from Portland, Oregon, where she works as the public insight journalist for Oregon Public Broadcasting. She produces radio and online stories, data visualizations, multimedia projects, and facilitates community engagement opportunities for OPB's newsroom.