Oregon Wildlife Refuge Occupation Ends As Last Holdouts Surrender
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The armed occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge ended today dramatically. The last four militants who were occupying the refuge surrendered to the FBI, and some of that was streamed live on an Internet audio feed. Here's tape of the last holdout, David Fry, just before his arrest.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DAVID FRY: This is where you come to a point in life where liberty or death. I will not be forced to pay for my existence through health insurance or having to pay for abortion.
SHAPIRO: Oregon Public Broadcasting's Conrad Wilson has been near the refuge since early this morning and joins us now from Burns, Ore. And Conrad, walk us through what happened this morning.
CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: Sure, Ari. The remaining occupies were arrested this morning. The FBI confirmed at press conference this afternoon that they were they were Sean and Sandy Anderson along with David Fry and Jeff Banta. It took a little longer to bring David Fry into custody. He was very emotional, seemingly suicidal at times, so it was very clearly a tense situation. The FBI kept the media behind a roadblock several miles from the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. All told, it took about two hours from start to finish for law enforcement to bring the remaining armed occupiers into custody.
SHAPIRO: And what led up to today's conclusion?
WILSON: Well, this is sort of the second part of the occupation with these four remaining militants. It's been going on for several weeks. More than 10 people were arrested last month. One man, you might recall, LaVoy Finicum, was killed by law enforcement during the arrests. The FBI said yesterday, David Fry drove an ATV close to or just outside the perimeter law enforcement set up at the refuge, and that's when law enforcement moved in. They tightened their perimeter around the occupants.
Last night, there was another audio webcast of the negotiations with the FBI. A Nevada state lawmaker named Michele Fiore stepped in and tried to broker a deal. She helped to get an agreement last night that those remaining at refuge would then turn themselves in today. This morning, she arrived in Burns and met up with Reverend Franklin Graham. That's the son of Billy Graham. And they went with the FBI out to the refuge and were able to help bring a peaceful resolution.
SHAPIRO: This occupation went on for 41 days. What is next for the community there in Eastern Oregon where you are?
WILSON: The FBI said today that the refuge is going to remain closed for a number of weeks. There's a significant police presence that the FBI said would continue. It's a major crime scene. The FBI says it's still searching refuge headquarters to see if there's still people who might be hiding. They're also searching for explosives and other potential hazards before documenting evidence.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which operates the refuge put out a statement a few hours ago saying that they're relieved it's over and offered to help the FBI process the crime scene and assess the damage done at the refuge. The Burns Paiute Tribe has, also, thousands of artifacts that are stored at the refuge headquarters, so there's some question and concern by tribal officials about the condition of those artifacts.
Really, the big thing is, the community can start to heal, you know? The last 41 days have been traumatic for federal employees that work in Harney County as well as the community at large. And it's just divide people here, so now they'll have the opportunity to heal.
SHAPIRO: That's Conrad Wilson, a reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Thanks, Conrad.
WILSON: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.