Hours after the jailed leader of an armed anti-government group urged remaining militants to abandon the Oregon wildlife refuge they have occupied for more than three weeks, the FBI said they arrested three more suspects at one of the checkpoints they’ve established near the refuge.
The FBI and Oregon State Police said in a statement that 45-year-old Duane Leo Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon, and 34-year-old Dylan Wade Anderson of Provo, Utah, turned themselves in around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. And 43-year-old Jason S. Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia, did the same a few hours later.
The men were described as being in contact with the FBI and officials said the men surrendered to agents on a road near the refuge.
After militant leader Ammon Bundy made his first court appearance in Portland on Wednesday, his attorney, Mike Arnold, read this statement from his client: “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is now in the courts.”
It was unclear whether the rest of the remnant of Bundy’s followers still holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns were ready to heed his advice. While some left, it was believed perhaps a half dozen remained late Wednesday, apparently sitting around a campfire.
Meanwhile, details began to emerge about the confrontation Tuesday on a remote highway that resulted in the arrest of Bundy and other leading figures in the group of occupiers, and in the death of militant Robert Finicum.
Bundy followers gave conflicting accounts of how Finicum died. One said Finicum charged at FBI agents, who then shot him. A member of the Bundy family said Finicum did nothing to provoke the agents.
An Oregon man who says he witnessed the shoot-out says he heard about a half dozen shots but didn’t see anyone get hit, and that the shooting happened quickly — over maybe 12 or 15 seconds. Raymond Doherty told KOIN-TV that he was about 100 feet back and couldn’t see who specifically was shooting. But, he added, “I saw them shooting at each other.”
Authorities refused to release any details about the encounter or even to verify that it was Finicum who was killed.
Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in Portland unsealed a criminal complaint that said the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles and that they were prepared to fight at the refuge or in the nearby town of Burns.
Someone told authorities about the equipment on Jan. 2, when the group took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to the document.
Bundy and the seven others are charged with felony counts of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”
The criminal complaint stresses that point. It states that the 16 employees at the wildlife refuge “have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property.”
Federal law officials and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward held a news conference on Wednesday in which they called on the rest of the occupiers to go home. There is a huge law enforcement presence in the region, and the FBI has now set up checkpoints outside the refuge.
FBI agent Greg Bretzing said people could leave through checkpoints “where they will be identified.” FBI officials said Wednesday night, in addition to the three men arrested, five people left the refuge through the checkpoints and were released without arrest.
Bretzing also defended the FBI-led operation that resulted in the arrest of Bundy and other leaders, and in the death of Finicum. “I will say that the armed occupiers were given ample opportunities to leave peacefully,” he said.
Ward said multiple law-enforcement agencies put together “the best tactical plan they could.”