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 was the culmination 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 43-year-old Ryan Bundy.
It is not clear who opened fire first.
Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and three other leaders of the occupation – Ryan Payne, 32; Brian Cavalier, 44, and Shawna Cox, 59 – were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, Oregon Live reports.
All detained militia members were being held at Multnomah County Jail without bail Wednesday.
Officials would not confirm the identity of the militiaman shot dead. However, Finicum’s daughter Arianna Finicum Brown, 26, confirmed her father’s death to The Oregonian, saying ‘he would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved.’
Nevada state Rep Michele Fiore told the paper Ammon Bundy called his wife from the back of the police vehicle after his arrest and told her that Finicum was cooperating with the authorities when he was shot. However, other sources said that he resisted arrest.
In an interview with MSNBC three weeks ago, Finicum declared that he would rather die than face arrest.
‘There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them,’ he said at the time. ‘I’m prepared to defend freedom.’
He sounded a similar note when speaking to CNN earlier this month.
‘I’m just not going to prison,’ Finicum said. ‘Look at the stars. There’s no way I’m going to sit in a concrete cell where I can’t see the stars and roll out my bedroll on the ground.
‘I want to be able to get up in the morning and throw my saddle on my horse and go check on my cows. It’s OK. I’ve lived a good life. God’s been gracious to me.’
Finicum, a Mormon rancher from Arizona, was a father of 11 and grandfather of 19 who was married to his wife, Jeanette, for 23 years.
His daughter Challice Finch told NBC News after the deadly standoff that her father and his fellow protesters were ‘all committed to not firing on federal agents.’
Speaking to The Oregonian on the eve of his death, LaVoy Finicum noted that law enforcement officials ‘have become more hardened’ as of late.
‘They’re doing all the things that show they want to take some kinetic action against us, and we’re saying, “Why be so unfriendly?”‘ the militia spokesman told the paper.
Joseph O’Shaughnessy, 45, and Peter Santilli, 50, were arrested in Burns soon after the traffic stop and shoot-out.
An eighth group member, Jon Ritzheimer, 32, 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.