Last 4 armed protesters in Oregon refuge surrender

BURNS (Oregon) • The four holdouts in the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon surrendered on Thursday, with the last protester repeatedly threatening suicide in a dramatic final phone call with mediators before he gave up, ending the 41-day stand-off.

David Fry, 27, stayed behind for more than an hour and told supporters by phone that he had not agreed with the other three to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. The call was broadcast live on an audio feed posted on the Internet.

"I'm actually pointing a gun at my head. I'm tired of living," Fry said during the call.

"Until you address my grievances, you're probably going to have to watch me be killed, or kill myself," he later added.

He sounded alternately defiant and tormented during the rambling final call, veering from rants about the federal government to his thoughts on UFOs.

He surrendered after taking a final cigarette and cookie, and asking his mediators to shout hallelujah.


Clockwise from top left: Married couple Sandy and Sean Anderson, David Fry and Jeff Banta will face charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers.

The authorities could be heard telling him over the phone line to put his hands up before the call disconnected. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward called him a "very troubled young man" at a news conference several hours later.

Prior to Fry's surrender, Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and a married couple, Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho, had surrendered peacefully, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The federal authorities said the refuge would stay closed for several weeks, as agents secured what was now considered a crime scene and scoured it for fugitives or explosives.

The protesters told the authorities that they left behind booby traps, but did not say whether the tripwires and other devices would trigger explosions, a law enforcement official told Reuters.

Materials to create explosives could be found on the property, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The final four occupiers will face charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers, along with 12 others previously arrested, officials said.

"The occupation of the Malheur (National) Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and members of the Burns Paiute tribe," United States Attorney Billy Williams said in the statement. "It is a time for healing, reconciliation among neighbours and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal."

The takeover, which began on Jan 2, was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires that spread to federal property in the vicinity of the refuge.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Last 4 armed protesters in Oregon refuge surrender'. Print Edition | Subscribe