BY NIGEL JAQUISS and AARON MESH
Oregon awakes to a changed landscape this morning, thanks to a dramatic night of arrests that signaled an endgame in the Eastern Oregon standoff between the FBI and anti-government militants led by Ammon Bundy.
The FBI and Oregon State Police arrested Bundy and four followers around dusk on U.S. Highway 395 between the towns of Burns and John Day. Police killed one of the militants, Robert LaVoy Finicum, during the arrests.
Another three people were arrested overnight—including Cincinnati right-wing radio host Pete Santilli—bringing the total Bundyland arrests to eight. None of the people charged is an Oregon resident.
The shootout started a flash flood of news reports and speculation throughout the night, much of it fueled by the remaining militants broadcasting video feeds from federal buildings on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times interviewed a militant named Jason Patrick inside the Malheur compound. He pledged to keep holding the buildings.
"Right now, we're doing fine," Patrick told The Post. "We're just trying to figure out how a dead cowboy equals peaceful resolution."
Multiple sources reported that children remain in the compound. But OPB reporter John Sepulvado visited the compound this morning, and said he could see no children there.
Meanwhile, Bundy allies and sympathizers offered conflicting accounts of Finicum's death. Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore told The Oregonian, among others, that Ammon Bundy called his wife while in federal custody, and recounted Finicum surrendering with his hands in the air, then being shot dead while lying on the ground.
Some right-wing militants are already lauding Finicum, a Nevada rancher, as a martyr.
But the news website Raw Story transcribed accounts from two militants who claimed to be at the arrest. Mark McConnell, a self-described bodyguard for the Bundys, says Finicum charged the police officers.
"He was not on his knees, none of that," McConnell said. "He was none of that nonsense. You know, that was a miscommunication on somebody else's part. But he went after them. He charged them. You know, LaVoy was very passionate about what he was doing up here."
Much of the logistics—and the chain of command—in the arrests also remains unclear. That's important, and not only because Oregonians will want to understand which law-enforcement agency is handling a high-stakes standoff with armed seditionists.
The question of cooperation between branches of law enforcement has always been central to this standoff—in part because some local sheriffs expressed sympathy with the Bundys.
The FBI will hold a press conference in Burns at 11 a.m.
The level of transparency—from Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward—will help determine how the standoff ends.
Here are eight questions the feds should answer as soon as possible:
1. How many people are still in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? Does the FBI know of any children there?
2. When will the FBI release a description of the events that led to LaVoy Finicum's death?
3. Typically, in an officer-involved shooting fatality, the officer responsible for the shooting death's name is released. When will that happen?
4. When will the FBI release video of the arrests and shooting?
5. The police action involved Oregon State Police and the FBI and took place on a state highway, which is OSP rather than federal jurisdiction. Who was in charge?
6. The Grant County sheriff's comments in support of the protesters appeared to lead to the idea of holding a meeting in John Day. Were those comments a ruse aimed at drawing protesters off the refuge?
7. The protesters appear to have committed other possible crimes ranging from trespassing to misuse of federal vehicles and computers. Do officials expect to file other charges against those arrested?
8. Why were those arrested booked into Multnomah County Jail, rather than Lane County Jail? Lane County also has a federal courthouse, and it's closer than Multnomah County to the site of the arrests.