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Last occupiers surrender at Oregon wildlife refuge

Arrests bring 41-day Oregon standoff to an end

  • Photo
Reuters

BURNS, Ore. — 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 standoff.

David Fry, 27, stayed behind for more than an hour and told supporters by phone he had not agreed with the other three to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

“I’m actually pointing a gun at my head. I’m tired of living,” Fry said during the phone call. He later added: “Until you address my grievances, you’re probably going to have to watch me be killed, or kill myself.”

Fry 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.”

The protesters told authorities they left behind booby traps but did not say whether the trip wires 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.

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 Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said. “It is a time for healing, reconciliation amongst neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal.”

The takeover at the refuge 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.

The standoff, which was originally led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, came to a head after the arrest on Wednesday of their father, Cliven Bundy. On Thursday he was charged with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer and obstruction of justice in connection with a separate 2014 standoff on federal land near his Nevada ranch.

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