BURNS, Ore. – Ammon Bundy and six others others arrested for occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon had their initial court appearances Wednesday. A judge ordered them to remain in jail until at least Friday as authorities and Bundy himself worked to convince the few remaining people at the remote refuge to stand down.
Q. What's going on at the refuge?
A. Federal and state law enforcement authorities have blocked the roads leading to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and said they made three additional arrests Wednesday afternoon and evening at those checkpoints after the men reportedly turned themselves in to agents. One of the armed protesters at the refuge, however, was uploading videos and livestreaming footage on his YouTube channel, "DefendYourBase." Videos showed a member of the group using an excavator to dig a large hole or trench and later appeared to show people near a campfire at night. Some protesters left the refuge but it was believed perhaps a half-dozen remained late Wednesday.
Q. What is group leader Ammon Bundy saying?
A. Mike Arnold, Bundy's attorney, read a statement after his client's initial court appearance Wednesday in which Bundy urged those still at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to leave. Bundy asked the federal government to allow the people remaining at the refuge to depart without being prosecuted. Addressing those still holding out, Bundy's statement said: "Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is now in the courts. Please go home."
Q. What's next for those arrested?
A. So far, eleven people have been arrested, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy. They all face the same charge — conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force. However, charges could be added or dropped depending on the results of the FBI investigation, which is still underway. At Wednesday's initial court appearance for seven of the suspects in Portland, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman said they are a danger to the community and, with no ties to Oregon, flight risks. Beckerman set a detention hearing for Friday, giving the defendants a chance to argue for their release pending trial.
Q. What about the person who was killed?
A. LaVoy Finicum, a 55-year-old rancher from Cane Beds, Arizona, died Tuesday after law enforcement officers initiated the stop near the refuge. It's unclear what happened in the moments before his death. Authorities said shots were fired but have declined to say how many, or if Finicum or any of the other activists exchanged gunfire with officers. Finicum vowed a few weeks ago that he would die before spending his life behind bars. He was a prominent voice of the group that took over the southeast Oregon refuge Jan. 2 to protest federal land restrictions. His affable but passionate demeanor made him a popular subject for on-camera interviews.