An Oregon standoff took a deadly turn last night when a planned arrest of the standoff's leaders went south on a remote stretch of roadway in rural eastern Oregon.
According to The Oregonian, one of the standoff's top leaders, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot and killed yesterday evening on a highway between Burns and John Day. The incident marked the first major action by law enforcement in a civilian occupation that has lasted for almost the entire month of January. Seven other people were arrested in the area, including occupation leaders and brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. The takeover of the Malheur National Wildfire Refuge was in protest of the new prison sentences for two local ranchers convicted of arson on federal land but evolved into a national debate over Constitutional freedom. The Bundys also cited their Mormon faith as giving them the go-ahead for the takeover even though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not sanctioned their actions.
Mark McConnell, a newcomer to the occupation, posted a video on Facebook (Parental warning: Brief language) this morning giving his first-hand and second-hand accounts of what went down. According to McConnell, he, the Bundys, Finicum, and several other people were driving in a Jeep and a pickup truck on their way to a meeting being held approximately 100 miles north of the refuge buildings they'd been occupying.
McConnell, the driver of the Jeep, said that he was pulled over by several waiting law enforcement pickup trucks and arrested. The pickup truck Finicum was driving had stopped 200 yards away before taking off again. He then recounted what two of the pickup's passengers said happened.
According to McConnell, Ryan Payne and Shawna Cox said that Payne and Finicum got into a "heated discussion" about what to do next. Finicum, acting on emotion, decided to run. A mile down the road, he met a police roadblock and got his pickup stuck in the snow on the side of the road in what may have been an attempt to get around the roadblock.
That's when, McConnell says, Finicum got out of his truck, "charged at law enforcement," and was killed in a shooting. This account contradicts earlier social media posts that claimed Finicum was murdered by police after surrendering. Full details of the incident have not been released by officials.
The Oregonian also reports that checkpoints have been setup around the wildlife refuge and authorities are only letting local residents through. According to FBI officials and an occupier, as many as 40 people, including women and children, are still in the refuge buildings. According to one of the current occupiers, several fellow occupiers are willing to take an aggressive stance against law enforcement.
What do you think of all of this?