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Several Arrests, 1 Killed In Operation Related To Oregon Refuge Occupation


Let's work through what is known and not yet known about the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. We know some militants left their stronghold last evening. We know they were stopped by police, and one was killed. Their leader, among others, is now in custody. We also know of police activity around the refuge where some militants remain this morning. John Selpulvado of Oregon Public Broadcasting has been covering this story all night and, in fact, for many weeks. He's on the line once again. And John, will you describe the situation where you are?

JOHN SELPULVADO, BYLINE: Well, right now there's actually - there's a bit of a wall. So right where I'm standing in front of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, there is mainly just press activity. We see satellite trucks setting up and trying to get a good signal. About a half hour ago, though, Steve, we saw two militants, the last two militant leaders, come out and basically say that they're not leaving. They told us that they were advised by the FBI that if they wanted to leave peacefully, now is the time to do it, and they made it very clear that they're not. And we've been following the live stream from inside the compound, and we're hearing a lot of people talk. When I say a lot, I mean the handful that are there talk about deaths and being willing to die. I should say some of these guys, they're a bit dramatic, so it's unclear how serious they are with regards to those statements.

INSKEEP: OK, you just said the last two militant leaders. Let's clarify that. First, we know that Ammon Bundy and some other leaders were arrested in this traffic stop. Second, how many total are still in that building?

SELPULVADO: I'm estimating somewhere between seven and 12, and that's based on the conversations I've had with Jason Patrick. He is, as of this point, the de facto leader. He was probably about six or seven down until this arrest earlier today in leadership ranks. But by virtue of him being the only person who is part of the planning of this, he has become the de facto leader, and he has become the public point person. He's the one who's talking to the press.

INSKEEP: OK, where, physically, are the law enforcement authorities if, in fact, they are warning people to get out of there?

SELPULVADO: So think of it this way. There are two pressure points to this refuge. There's 187,000 acres is the first thing, Steve. And the second part is there's really kind of two ways from the point where we're standing to get out. They've gone to the south of where we're at, and they've pinched it. It's a military-style blockade of the road. They made it very clear that it's closed. When I was driving up, they had me - they ordered me out of the car - out of my car by loudspeaker, and two very heavily armed men walked out to greet me and let me know that they did not want me there. So there's that, Steve.

And then on the other scene, on the other road up, it's basically there is no law enforcement presence. And so I don't know if you're familiar with the concept of the golden bridge, but that's kind of what this is. It seems like to me that they're offering a way out for these militants if they want to leave peacefully.

INSKEEP: OK, so that is happening. Now let's remember the events that led up to this dramatic moment, this traffic stop, as it's been described last night. What happened, John?

SELPULVADO: So based on what we've been able to tell by our sources and what's been released by law enforcement, the men who were driving with the leaders of this movement, including Ammon Bundy, the son of quiet Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and they were driving to a meeting. They have these meetings pretty regularly around the West. It wasn't just in Oregon, although this was the one they were going to tonight. They have them throughout the West, and they were basically to create political pressure to get political - some political capital for their movement. While they were on a very isolated stretch of road, there was some confrontation. It's unclear at that point whether they were tried to pull over, whether there was a blockade. We don't know. But what we do know according to the law enforcement is that there was some type of gunshot exchange and that one man died. I've been able to confirm LaVoy Finicum. He was a leader in this movement. He was on the Bundy ranch in 2014 in Nevada that some listeners may remember or the armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, and he is somebody that everyone here is really looking towards as wanting to avenge his death. And when I say everybody, I mean the seven to 12 people who were left here. They've all been talking about him and remembering him and presenting him as somewhat of a...


SELPULVADO: ...Martyr, if you will, for the cause.

INSKEEP: OK, John Selpulvado of Oregon Public Broadcasting, thanks very much. We'll be hearing from you again, I am sure. He is on the scene of the wildlife refuge in Oregon where some militants remain inside. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Selpulvado