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Grant County resident witnessed arrests of occupation leaders from FBI roadblock

U.S. Highway 395 remains closed between Seneca and Burns Wednesday morning during investigation.

The Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on January 27, 2016 11:39AM

Last changed on January 27, 2016 2:18PM

U.S. Highway 395 was closed for hours from the intersection with U.S. Highway 20 near Burns to one mile south of Seneca as authorities investigated the officer-involved shooting related to the apprehension of leaders of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Tuesday. The highway reopened at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Photo submitted by Dave Hannibal

U.S. Highway 395 was closed for hours from the intersection with U.S. Highway 20 near Burns to one mile south of Seneca as authorities investigated the officer-involved shooting related to the apprehension of leaders of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Tuesday. The highway reopened at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge sits on U.S. Highway 395 north of Burns Tuesday while being taken into custody. The leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy, was taken into custody with four others, and one suspect died after being shot by police.

Photo submitted by Dave Hannibal

A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge sits on U.S. Highway 395 north of Burns Tuesday while being taken into custody. The leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy, was taken into custody with four others, and one suspect died after being shot by police.


Stranded for hours as authorities blocked the highway, a Grant County resident watched as some of the leaders of the refuge occupation were arrested Tuesday.

The FBI and Oregon State Police closed a portion of U.S. Highway 395 between John Day and Burns to apprehend the occupation leaders traveling north to John Day for a community meeting. Ammon Bundy and four others were arrested, and one suspect died after being shot by police. The highway was closed from one mile south of Seneca to the intersection with U.S. Highway 20 near Burns until about 3 p.m. Wednesday as authorities investigated.

Dave Hannibal, Dayville, did not see the exchange of gunfire, but he was one of the first witnesses on the scene. He was driving north on U.S. Highway 395 near the Devine Ridge summit 50 miles south of John Day Tuesday afternoon when he came across four vehicles of FBI agents. An FBI agent had a conversation with Hannibal, telling him he couldn’t pass until they were finished. Only later did he realize that the FBI was waiting for the Bundy caravan to come by on Highway 395.

Hannibal was on a side street, parked at a 90-degree angle from the highway, as the FBI waited for the Bundy group to show up. When the FBI pulled out onto the highway, he pulled out behind them.

He watched the detainment of the people who were traveling in the rear vehicle of the Bundy caravan.

He pulled onto the highway behind the last FBI suburban, which was blocking both lanes. The FBI asked Hannibal and the vehicles behind him to back up south. There was a snow mobile behind Hannibal; he backed up a good distance.

Then Hannibal sat on the side of the road and watched from afar, taking photos.

He saw law enforcement arrest two people in the rear vehicle. There was no fight, from what he saw. The detainees were handcuffed and sat on the highway. He saw two people he had seen on the news, but he couldn’t name them with certainty.

Hannibal stayed there well into the night; they eventually let him drive through the scene. He was told there was a dead body ahead.

He saw a vehicle about a quarter or half a mile up the road and the passenger-side window appeared to have been shot out. That vehicle had left the highway and probably traveled 50 feet up into the snow.

“There was a ton of people there last night,” both FBI agents and many state troopers, he said.

He was held up from 3:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. before driving out.

Hannibal said, although he agrees government overreach can be oppressive, he believes solutions can be found through “collective participation” rather than “taking up arms and taking over buildings.”

“I’m pleased that the situation has been resolved,” he said. “... To take up arms against the government in today’s world is a losing proposition at best. It is sad someone died over this.”

The Oregonian reported Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed by police, but authorities have not released the name of the deceased.

The individuals arrested on Highway 395 include Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, Emmett, Idaho; Ryan C. Bundy, 43, Bunkerville, Nevada; Brian Cavalier, 44, Bunkerville, Nevada; Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, Anaconda, Montana.

Other people were also detained during the arrests and have since been released.

In a separate event in Burns at about 5:50 p.m., Oregon State Police arrested Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, Cottonwood, Arizona.

At about 6:30 p.m., the FBI arrested Peter Santilli, 50, Cincinnati, Ohio, in Burns without incident.

At 8:30 p.m., Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, was arrested by the FBI after turning himself in to the Peoria, Arizona, police department.

All of the named defendants face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.

John Day resident Kim McKrola was also trying to return home Tuesday evening, but the road was closed. She said no hotel rooms were available.

“Every hotel was full mostly by government officials, and one hotel manager told me 200 more police were coming over today (Wednesday),” she said.

McKrola said she waited overnight expecting the road to open Wednesday morning but heard the road may be closed most of the day.

Erick Bengel from The Daily Astorian contributed to this story.



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