Federal and local law enforcement officials on Wednesday blamed occupiers of a federal wildlife refuge for the death of one anti-government protester in Oregon a day earlier.
The Tuesday evening shootout that killed Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was part of a “tactical plan” designed “to bring these guys down peacefully,” Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told reporters at a brief press conference.
“Let me be clear: It is the actions and choices of the armed occupiers of the refuge that has led us to where we are today,” said FBI special agent Greg Bretzing. “As the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”
The officials declined to discuss the details of the traffic stop that resulted in Finicum's death Seven people were arrested in Oregon — including group leader Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan — and one in Arizona.
Bretzing called the effort “the first steps” to end the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which armed men seized Jan. 2 in protest of federal land ownership.
The traffic stop “was supposed to bring a peaceful resolution to this,” Ward said.
Details remain murky about the incident, which occurred roughly 50 miles from the Malheur refuge. The Oregonian reported that Finicum and Ryan Bundy resisted arrest and disobeyed orders to surrender. Ryan Bundy reportedly suffered a minor gunshot wound.
The seven people arrested in Oregon will come before a judge later Wednesday, officials said. The one person arrested in Arizona will be brought to Oregon and face charges there.
The FBI has not disclosed Finicum’s name. However, it has been reported widely.
Even after the Tuesday incident, dozens of activists remain camped out at the refuge and have so far resisted the FBI’s urgings to flee.
Police have erected a barrier around the refuge, and officials Wednesday said those inside can leave via checkpoints.
“It’s time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on,” said Ward. “ There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community.”