The leader of an armed militia that has occupied a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon for nearly three weeks made his first contact with an FBI negotiator Thursday.
The Oregonian reported that Ammon Bundy arrived unannounced at the Burns Municipal Airport, close to where federal officials have set up a staging area. Bundy said that the FBI had begun reaching out to the group two days earlier and claimed to have 14 messages on his phone from the negotiator, whom Bundy knows only as "Chris."
Bundy spoke to the negotiator on a borrowed cell phone as reporters watched.
"I'm a face-to-face kind of guy," Bundy told the negotiator at one point, according to the Oregonian. "You reached out to me ... I'm not sure exactly what you wanted to talk about."
Bundy asked for the release of ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven, who reported to prison earlier this month to finish five year prison sentences for arson on federal land. Bundy and his group occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 following a protest calling for the Hammonds' release
Bundy said his group is "not going to escalate" the situation, and he agreed to speak with authorities again Friday.
Bundy and the FBI made contact one day after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown expressed frustration with what she described as a lack of action by federal authorities against the group.
In a statement Thursday, the FBI acknowledged the situation has caused "tremendous disruption and hardship" for people in the community and our "response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.