Call it a standoff or a showdown, a protest, an occupation or whatever you like, but after nearly a month the confrontation between the Bundy brothers and federal officials seems to be close to an end. After federal agents moved in on the Oregon compound last night, one protester was dead and several are under arrest, including the Bundys. NBC News was one of the first with the story.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the brothers leading anti-government protesters occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and five other people were arrested Tuesday, state and federal authorities said. One person was dead, the FBI said.
Shots were fired about 4:25 p.m. (7:25 p.m. ET) when the FBI and Oregon State Police began an “enforcement action,” the FBI said. It didn’t identify the victim but said he or she wasn’t a law enforcement officer.
Three other people were in custody in addition to the Bundys in the initial incident, authorities said:
Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah
Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana
You can find a more complete timeline of the events over at Yahoo News. We also get what should serve as suitable confirmation of the identity of the protester who was killed.
Authorities did not identify the person killed, saying only that it was an adult male who died in an “officer involved shooting” during law officers’ confrontation with Ammon Bundy and his followers during a traffic stop outside Burns, Oregon.
However Arianna Finicum Brown told ( http://bit.ly/1nOammV ) the Portland, Oregon, newspaper that the man killed was her father – 55-year-old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum of Cane Beds, Arizona. LaVoy Finicum was a frequent and public presence at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, often speaking for the group at news conferences.
During previous briefings with the press Finicum had made various comments along the lines of saying that he preferred death to jail, as well as stressing the importance of freedom. I imagine it’s going to be a while before we get all the details of how the shooting started, but if Finicum drew first there likely won’t be much fallout from it. Given the current state of technology I would be extremely surprised if there isn’t some video of the shooting out there somewhere. The feds might have had dash cams or body cams, the media has had cameras pointed at the refuge from day one and I’m sure most of the protesters had cell phones on them. So if it turns out that the feds shot first, unleashing all sorts of comparisons to Ruby Ridge, we’ll find out sooner or later.
In the end, I suppose that this situation had to come to come a crescendo in fairly short order and it probably couldn’t have ended any other way. Bundy’s crew clearly was prepared to settle in for the long haul and the federal government couldn’t simply allow a group of armed individuals to take over a piece of government property uncontested. Most of the protesters clearly wanted to make a statement and draw attention to the issues under discussion, but they weren’t looking for an actual war.
Assuming everyone else is removed and/or arrested from the wildlife refuge, we’ll be down to the what have we learned stage of this play. Bundy and his followers have drawn attention to the massive amount of land controlled by the federal government and some of the more absurd rules they enforce in wilderness areas. They’ve also garnered national attention for a sustained period and likely started a long overdue conversation about the entire federal vs state balancing act in our nation’s government. But there will doubtless be trials to come and people heading to prison because, again, Uncle Sam can’t afford the sort of black eye that would result in simply letting them get away with it.
In other words, the main tent may be coming down, but this circus is really just getting started.