FBI surrounds Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
BURNS, Ore. -- The 41-day armed occupation ended Feb. 11 when the last four holdouts at the refuge surrendered to the FBI.
The FBI closed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for several weeks while they gathered evidence. A special team worked with a local tribe to document any damage to artifacts and ancient burial grounds at the property, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing.
In all, 25 people were indicted on a felony charge of conspiracy to keep federal workers from doing their duties through force or intimidation.
On his way to Burns, Cliven Bundy, the father of group leader Ammon Bundy and leader of another armed protest in 2014, was arrested by the FBI after flying into Portland International Airport on Feb. 10.
On Jan. 26, eight armed protesters, including group leader Ammon Bundy, were arrested for their roles in the occupation of the wildlife refuge near Burns.
One member of the group, LaVoy Finicum, was killed when authorities said he reached for a loaded gun.
FBI Special Agent Greg Bretzing said the video of Finicum's death was released "in the interest of transparency."
Three other protesters were arrested Jan. 27. The men turned themselves in to the FBI after Bundy issued a statement through his attorney, telling those who remained at the refuge to go home.
On Jan. 29th, one of those arrested, Shawna Cox, was released. She was expected to return to her Utah home. In an interview, she pointed to an inside informant as the reason why police were able to arrest the group's leaders.
The occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge cost the community more than $1.4 million, according to Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Expenses included setting up and running a joint command center, and shutting down county offices and schools.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said he planed to send protesters a bill once the situation is over and he knows the final tally. Senators Merkley and Wyden said they were trying to secure federal and state funds to help cover the costs.
The protesters, led by Arizona resident Ammon Bundy, objected to federal land policy and the re-sentencing of two Harney County ranchers who were convicted of arson on federal land.
The group calls itself the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. Bundy originally said the group would leave when the imprisoned ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, were freed and the federally owned land in Harney County was relinquished to local authorities, which did not happen.
This was not the first armed standoff for protest leader Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan. Their father, Cliven Bundy, led a standoff in 2014 with federal agents after a two-decade legal dispute over unpaid grazing fees on federally owned land in Nevada.
The FBI worked with local and state police on the Malheur case, and the agency said on numerous occasions that it was attempting to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation.”
While a few nearby residents supported the protest, most local organizations decried the occupation at the refuge.
TIMELINE: Protest at wildlife refuge
Jan. 2: An armed group led by Ammon Bundy broke off from a peaceful protest asking for the Hammonds to be released from prison in Burns. That night, the group entered the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles away.
The refuge is popular among birders, with about 320 species of birds passing through annually, accounting for more than one-third of all bird species in the U.S.
Jan. 4: Classes in Harney County were canceled for a week due to the occupation. Students returned to school Monday, Jan. 11.
Jan. 5: At first, the protesters kept the road to the refuge open, letting reporters and local residents tour the facility. But on Jan. 5, the group blocked the roadway leading to refuge buildings.
Jan. 6: An evening community meeting in Burns erupted in cheers as Harney County Sheriff David Ward said it was time for the group to “pick up and go home.”
Jan. 7: Sheriff Ward attempted to reach a peaceful resolution at the only public meeting between law enforcement and protesters.
Ward told protest leader Ammon Bundy that he would safely escort the group out of the county but Bundy declined. Ward said no other meetings were planned.
Governor Kate Brown issued a statement ordering the protesters to "decamp immediately."
Jan. 9: Supporters of both the protesters and law enforcement traveled to remote Harney County despite being asked to stay away.
State Representative Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) brought a group of out-of-state legislators to meet with the protesters, The Oregonian reports. A state representative and judge who represent Harney County both said they had asked Heard not to come.
That same morning, an armed group of men representing the Pacific Patriot Network arrived at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with the goal of providing security for the activists occupying the federal building, only to be told to leave, according to The Oregonian. The group left Saturday afternoon.
Jan. 11: Protesters said they were going through documents at the refuge in an effort to expose how the government has mistreated local ranchers. The group also reportedly cut fencing around the refuge so cows could graze on publicly owned land.
Jan. 13: The anti-government group announced it was planning a meeting with local residents Friday at the county fairgrounds but a local judge said the group and its supporters could no longer use community facilities. The county fire chief - a sympathizer of the armed group - resigned over the county's refusal to host the meeting.
While the protesters have asked for and received some food and supplies through the postal service, they also received sex toys and hate mail.
Jan. 15: Staff who work at the refuge said they were concerned for the safety of 4,000 archeological artifacts stored at the facility.
Jan. 19: Growing frustration among environmentalists fueled simultaneous rallies in Portland, Bend, Eugene and La Grande.
An online petition asking the Obama administration to arrest occupiers gathered more than 23,000 signatures.
Jan. 20: At a community meeting, Ammon Bundy listened as Harney County residents chanted at him to "go."
Jan. 24: Harney County Judge Steve Grasty canceled a community meeting on Jan. 25 due to expected protests. The meeting was moved to Jan. 26 in John Day.
Jan. 26: Authorities arrested Ammon Bundy and seven fellow protesters during a traffic stop that ended in gunfire. LaVoy Finicum was killed. The group was driving to the John Day community meeting.
Jan. 27: Three more occupiers were arrested, bring the total number arrested to 11.
Jan. 28: Just four people remained at the refuge. The FBI released a video showing the fatal shooting of LaVoy Finicum, the man killed during gunfire on Jan. 26.
Jan. 29: One of the protesters at the refuge said they wanted all of the people involved in the occupation to receive pardons.
In Portland, the eleven arrested protesters were held at the Multnomah County Jail.
One arrested protester, Shawna Cox, was released. She was expected to return to her Utah home. In an interview, she pointed to an inside informant as the reason why police were able to arrest the group's leaders.
Jan. 31: One of the four people still occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge responded to Ammon Bundy’s call to stand down, by saying in a YouTube video that the small group instead plans to stand its ground and stay put.
Feb. 10: The FBI surrounded the refuge and said it began negotiations with the remaining four occupiers: David Fry, Sean and Sandy Anderson and Jeffrey Banta.
Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, was arrested by the FBI after flying into Portland International Airport.
Feb. 11: The last four holdouts at the refuge surrendered and federal agents begin examining the refuge for evidence.
Contributing: Associated Press