Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher at the center of an armed standoff with federal officials in 2014, was arrested Wednesday in Portland, Ore., according to jail records and news reports.
He was reportedly on his way to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in isolated southeastern Oregon, where an armed occupation in its 41st day seemed to be coming to an end. The occupation had been organized by Bundy’s sons, Ammon and Ryan, who are now in jail facing felony charges of conspiracy to impede a federal officer.
The last remaining members of the occupation had said they would turn themselves in on Thursday morning, after the FBI appeared to close in on their encampment.
The FBI in Portland would not confirm the circumstances of the elder Bundy’s arrest. But the Oregonian newspaper reported that he was apprehended at Portland International Airport after disembarking from his flight from Las Vegas late Wednesday. The newspaper said Bundy, 74, faces the same charge as his sons in relation to his standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2014. He also faces weapons charges, it said.
Bundy’s arrest came after federal authorities moved to surround the refuge Wednesday afternoon, prompting the lingering occupiers to hold a panicked phone conversation with a few of their supporters, including Nevada state assemblywoman Michele Fiore, that was broadcast over a livestream on YouTube.
The conversation, monitored at one point by 64,000 people, was surreal. Fiore, a gun-toting supporter of the Bundys known for her wild pronouncements and cowgirl costumes, was at the airport in Portland on one end of the phone simultaneously trying to calm the occupiers, contact the FBI and communicate with evangelist Franklin Graham, hoping to get him to the occupation site to witness a surrender. On the other end were various occupiers, shouting hysterically about the Constitution, a shootout with the FBI and their fear of going to prison. In the background, a voice on a bullhorn, apparently someone from the FBI, could be faintly heard telling the occupiers to come out with their hands up.
Initially, the occupiers said they feared that an armed assault by agents was imminent. But late Wednesday night, after the phone conversation that lasted more than four hours, one of occupiers said they planned to emerge from the refuge in the morning as long as Fiore was there to act as a witness and ensure that the occupation ended peacefully.
Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, later posted a statement on his Facebook page explaining that he has been talking with the four holdouts every day for seven days at their request and at the request of the FBI. “I am on my way there,” he wrote. “…Please keep them, law enforcement officials, and all involved in your prayers, that everyone will be safe.”
SOURCE: Sarah Kaplan and Carissa Wolf
The Washington Post