The last four armed occupiers of an Oregon wildlife refuge shouted, argued and raved for all the world to hear. But in the end, they surrendered without a shot being fired, leaving behind a vandalized federal property that authorities will spend weeks combing for evidence, explosives and damage before it can reopen to the public.
The peaceful resolution to the standoff, which had lasted 41 days and resulted in one death, signaled a victory for the FBI's patient, "low burn" approach to the trespassers, and reflected lessons federal agents have learned since bloody standoffs at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in the 1990s.
"This was beautifully executed," said Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University, San Bernardino. "This siege and the way it was handled will go down in law enforcement textbooks."
The holdouts were the last remnants of a larger group that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2, demanding the U.S. turn over the land to locals and release two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires, in a controversy that exposed simmering anger over the government's control of vast expanses of Western land.
The group's leaders, including Ammon Bundy, were arrested Jan. 26 during a traffic stop along the snowy highway to the town of John Day, where they were due to appear at a community forum. Authorities said one man, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, reached toward a pistol inside his jacket pocket, and police shot him dead.
Most of the occupiers fled the refuge. Four stayed behind, saying they feared they would be arrested if they left: 27-year-old David Fry, of Blanchester, Ohio; Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and married couple Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho.
On Wednesday night, the FBI tightened its ring around the holdouts, surrounding their encampment with armored vehicles — while also arresting one of their heroes, Ammon Bundy's father, Cliven Bundy, as he arrived in Oregon to support them. The elder Bundy appeared in federal court Thursday in Portland to hear the charges against him, all of which stem from a 2014 confrontation with federal authorities at his ranch in Nevada. (AP)