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Tense moments tick away as refuge takeover ends peacefully

Last holdout threatens to make a stand, then wants pizza before he surrenders


TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Scott Phoenix, left, and Phil Day chat outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Portland where Cliven Bundy was being arraigned on federal charges.Just before he decided to give up a two-week standoff in a muddy corner of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge compound on a cloudy and cold Thursday morning, a very troubled David Lee Fry lit a cigarette.

Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio, alternated between rat-a-tat-tat rants and calmly explaining his position during telephone conversations with FBI negotiators, supporters (including Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore and the Rev. Franklin Graham) as more than 26,000 people listened intently to a live YouTube feed of the action.

David Fry was the last holdout to surrender.“I better get a pizza,” Fry told negotiators as he vacillated between giving up and fighting to the death to hold what he and three other refuge holdouts had named “Camp Finicum.”


UPDATES: FOUR IN COURT;

NO EXPLOSIVES FOUND

• The refuge occupation’s final four appeared in federal court Friday afternoon, Feb. 12. David Fry, Jeff Banta, Sean Anderson and Sandra Anderson each told a federal judge they were not guilty of the charge they face in the 41-day occupation. All four have detention hearings Friday, Feb. 19, in Portland’s U.S. District Court.

• On Friday, Feb. 12, the FBI’s Evidence Response Teams began processing the wildlife refuge as a crime scene. An Oregon State Police arson/explosives unit and Portland Police Bureau and Oregon Air National Guard bomb technicians searched the property and did not find booby traps or explosives. An Art Crime Team is checking on Burns Paiute Tribe artifacts stored at the refuge.

• On Thursday, Feb. 11, Oregon lawmakers added a provision to a bill preventing release of information about a Oregon State Police trooper who shot Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a Jan. 26 traffic stop on Highway 395. An amendment to House Bill 4087 by the House Judiciary Committee allows law enforcement agencies to ask a state judge to block release of any information about an officer or deputy using deadly force if there is “convincing evidence” that the officer or family members could be put in danger by the information. HB 4087 still faces more hearings and has not been adopted by the House.


After a tense hour of back-and-forth with negotiators, that included stretches of shouted ramblings about the state of the nation, it was the moment of truth. Fry had one request: Everyone standing at the FBI barricades and surrounding his camp had to shout “hallelujah!” and he would give himself. In the background of the YouTube broadcast, voices in the distance were heard shouting “hallelujah!”

“I was amazed today,” said Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward during a Thursday afternoon press conference, nearly three hours after the wildlife refuge standoff came to a peaceful end. “I was listening to a live feed, and I heard a very troubled young man say that if everyone said ‘hallelujah’ he’d come out. I heard hallelujahs from SWAT teams, from people all over the buildings.”

Sean Anderson set up camp on a corner of the wildlife refuge during the morning of Jan. 27, expecting an attack by law enforcement officers. The attack never came, but Anderson and three others occupied the compound for two more weeks.

Processing a crime scene

Fry was the last person to leave the wildlife refuge compound. He was calmly taken into custody without incident after he walked to an FBI barricade close to the refuge’s entrance. An hour before, at about 9:40 a.m., fellow militants Sean and Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta had walked to the same barricade and surrendered. The Andersons, from Riggins, Idaho, walked hand-in-hand, Sean Anderson holding an American flag in his right hand. Just before they were handcuffed, the two embraced.

The final four holdouts, David Fry, Sean Anderson, Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta, were booked into the Multhomah County Detention Center Thursday afternoon.Fry, Banta and the Andersons were hustled into waiting FBI vehicles and taken to Portland, where they face federal charges in connection with the wildlife refuge standoff.

They had holed up under tarps and blankets in the camp on a cold, muddy section of a loop road several hundred feet from the compound buildings since Jan. 27, ready to defend the area from an expected attack by law enforcement officers. The attack never came. Instead, FBI and other law enforcement officers set up barricades near the compound entrance, negotiating the four’s expected surrender.

FBI Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters Thursday afternoon that he was happy that the wildlife refuge standoff ended peacefully with the arrests of the four holdouts camped at the compound.Greg Bretzing, the FBI agent in charge in Oregon, told reporters Thursday afternoon that agents and law enforcement officers would carefully check the refuge compound for booby traps, explosives or other hazards. It also will be processed as a crime scene, Bretzing told reporters, and a special team of investigators would inventory American Indian artifacts stored at the refuge to make sure they were not damaged.

Bretzing said he was happy agents and others were able to resolve the refuge occupation peacefully. “As we have said since day one, our goal has been to end this illegal occupation peacefully, and we are grateful that we were able to do so today,” he told reporters.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ROB KERR - Ammon Bundy and other leaders of the wildlife refuge takeover face federal charges for their part in the 41-day occupation.

Cliven Bundy faces charges

The arrests ended a 41-day occupation of the refuge compound that began Jan. 2 when Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and a handful of other armed militants took over the refuge buildings to protest what they said was unjust treatment of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond. The Hammonds are serving five years in federal prison for setting fires on federal land near their ranch.

The Bundys are sons of Bunkerville, Nevada, rancher Cliven Bundy, who was at the center of an April 2014 armed standoff with federal law enforcement officers and U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents. Ammon and Ryan Bundy came to Harney County in early November to support the Hammonds and protest the federal government’s ownership of land in the county.

Cliven Bundy faces six federal charges in connection with a 2014 standoff at his Nevada ranch.Cliven Bundy, 74, was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 10, when he arrived at Portland International Airport to protest his sons’ arrest and offer support to the refuge holdouts. Cliven Bundy was in Portland’s U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon, Feb. 11, facing a 32-page criminal complaint that outlined six charges against him, including including using a firearm in a violent crime, assaulting a federal officer and obstruction of justice.

He is due back in court for a detention center next week. He is represented by attorney Ruben Iniquez, a federal public defender.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested with seven other people Jan. 26 during a traffic stop on Highway 395 about 20 miles north of Burns, while they were traveling to a community meeting in John Day. During that stop, 54-year-old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot to death by Oregon State Police after he refused to surrender.

The Bundys were among nearly two dozen people arrested or indicted in the past two weeks for using threats and intimidation to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs. The felony carries a maximum six-year sentence.

Also indicted on federal charges were:

• Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah

• Sandra Lynn Anderson, 48, of Riggins, Idaho

• Sean Larry Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho

• Jeff Wayne Banta, 46, of Yerington, Nevada

• Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho

• Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada

• Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada

• Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah

• Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon

• David Lee Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio

• Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of Crescent

• Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Ariz.

• Jason S. Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Ga.

• Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont.

• Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, Peoria, Ariz.

• Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati

• Blaine Cooper, 36, of Humboldt, Ariz.

• Wesley Kjar, 32, of Utah

• Corey Lequieu, 44, of Fallon, Nevada

• Neil Wampler, 68, of Los Osos, Calif.

• Jason Charles Blomgren, 41, of Murphy, N.C.

• Darryl William Thorn, 31, of Marysville, Wash.

• Eric Lee Flores, 22, of Tuallip Wash.

Sending a message

COURTESY OF HCSO - Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward says he hopes his community can heal from the controversial takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.Bretzing said the arrests and indictments sent a message that “illegal acts, such as occupying federal property while armed will not be tolerated in the United States.

“That kind of activity has consequences for everyone involved,” Bretzing told reporters.

“The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. attorney for Oregon. “It is a time for healing, reconciliation amongst neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden thanked law enforcement agencies for their efforts and said he hoped to help Harney County heal after the ordeal.

“The steady resolve of the Burns community and Harney County leaders like County Judge Steve Grasty and Sheriff Dave Ward have kept this sad episode from sparking something much worse,” Wyden said. “Now that the shadow of violence is lifting from Harney County, Oregonians can return to what we do best — building common ground for real success on the challenges facing our state.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said he was relieved that the occupation had ended, and he was ready to work with other state and federal officials to help Harney County recover.

“This situation has put incredible emotional and financial strain on the Harney County community, and now we all must come together to support them as they heal,” Merkley said.

An emotional Ward said he hoped “a lot of good” would come from the 41-day standoff that rocked and divided the towns of Burns and Hines. Ward hoped that neighbors would “get off Facebook and talk to each other” now that the occupation had ended.

“I love this community and I am proud of every person in it,” Ward told reporters. “I want to sit down and work out the differences between myself and my neighbors. We can’t continue tearing each other apart, hating each other. We can’t go on like that.”

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Robert West holds a copy of the arrest warrant for Cliven Bundy outside Portland's U.S. District Courthouse.

‘Liberty or death’

Bretzing said a series of events led to the standoff’s swift conclusion. It began Wednesday evening when one of the four holdouts rode an all-terrain vehicle far from the group’s camp toward the FBI barricades. When agents approached the person, he sped away.

It was the first time that had happened, and Bretzing said agents at the compound decided to move their barricades closer to the camp to contain the four holdouts. Agents set up barricades on two sides a few dozen yards from the camp.

During the next several hours and into the night, FBI negotiators and others tried to talk the four into giving up. Most of the talks were broadcast live on a YouTube feed set up by Gavin Seim, a Ephrata, Wash., abolitionist and patriot movement supporter, who regularly chatted and prayed with the four holdouts.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore helped talk the four refuge holdouts into surrendering.Seim used a desktop computer and a speaker phone to patch Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore into the broadcast as she drove through the night toward Burns, where she and the Rev. Franklin Graham hoped to convince the four to surrender. Graham had talked with the four for several days, hoping to peacefully end the standoff.

During those conversations, the four agreed to surrender at about 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11. Fiore and Graham were escorted by FBI agents to the refuge compound, where they coaxed Sean and Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta to give up.

They walked out separately to the FBI checkpoint and surrendered at about 9:40 a.m. Fry remained in the camp, shouting that he wouldn’t surrender. At one point he told negotiators that he was snuggled under a blanket and threatened to shoot himself if agents approached the camp.

“It’s about liberty or death,” Fry shouted into the cell phone, and broadcast on the live YouTube feed. “This is David Fry’s stand right now. I declare war on the federal government right now.”

After more than an hour of wrangling, during which Fry demanded “absolute protection” if he went to prison and shouted that he didn’t want his tax dollars to pay for abortions, Fry decided to give himself up.

He lit that last cigarette and walked toward the barricade, with a cell phone in his pocket still broadcasting on the YouTube feed.

“Man wasn’t made to be put behind bars for standing up for his own rights,” Fry said just before giving up. “I haven’t killed anybody.”

Reporter Nick Budnick contributed to this story.