Wednesday, January 27, 2016

FBI says occupiers had 'ample' time to leave

Oregon FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters during a press conference Wednesday morning in Burns that the occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had "ample" time to leave peacefully. Bretzing was joined by U.S. Attorney Bill Williams and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward during the press conference, held on the 26th day of the standoff with the occupiers. They expressed disappointment that a traffic stop on protesters had turned deadly Tuesday. "It didn't have to happen," Ward told reporters gathered at the Harney County Chamber of Commerce. "We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad." Bretzing said the FBI, state police and the Harney County Sheriff's Office had taken a "very deliberate and measured response" to the protesters who took hold of the refuge on Jan. 2. The occupiers there, he said, were given the opportunity to air their grievances. They had the chance to leave and return to their families, Bretzing said. "Instead, these individuals have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America that they profess to love," he said. During the news conference, officials did not provide additional details about the traffic stops or what prompted the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation. They also did not confirm that Finicum was the one who was killed during the confrontation. His daughter told The Oregonian/OregonLive Tuesday that her father had died defending his beliefs. They also did not take any questions from reporters. Bretzing and Ward both stressed that there could have been another outcome. "Let me be clear: It is fully and unequivocally the behavior and the choices made by the armed occupiers that have led us to where we are today," Bretzing said in a statement, released by the FBI. "And, as the FBI and our partners have demonstrated, actions are not without consequences." Authorities reiterated that the occupation has been disruptive to the Harney County community and said they are committed to restoring normalcy for residents there. Ward said he had been working on a resolution to the problem since November, when several of the people involved in the occupation came to the sheriff's office. "They had ultimatums that I couldn't meet," he said. "I'm here to uphold the law."...more

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