Friday, January 29, 2016

‘Tain’t Over In Oregon But the Fat Lady’s Yodelin’

Helicopter video shows LaVoy Finicum reaching for a gun at his waist as he is shot

It’s been more than a day since the Feds and Oregon State Police intercepted a two vehicle convoy carrying Ammon Bundy and other key leaders of the long standoff/occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  The occupants of the first SUV surrendered peacefully at a road block.  It did not go so well for the second vehicle, which tried to speed away and ended up stuck in a snow bank with its wheels still spinning.  Would-be folk hero, Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum  a/k/a Blue Tarp Man emerged from the car with his hands up.  Then quickly released footage shot from an overhead police helicopter showed him grabbing for a handgun at his waist and being shot.  Finicum had bragged on camera in widely distributed interviews that he would not be taken alive and was ready to die.  He got his wish.

Other occupants stayed in the trapped vehicle, other rounds were fired, and some sort of gas grenade was tossed inside sending the other scrambling out.  Ammon’s brother Ryan was wounded in the arm and evacuated by helicopter to a hospital.  In addition to five arrested at the scene, within a couple of hours another leader, Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy and “embedded” right wing internet radio and video host and propagandist for the occupation Peter Santilli were arrested in or near Burns separately.

Arizona Militiaman Jon Ritzheimer, who had made a dramatic and widely mocked video tearfully saying good-bye to his family and vowing to die for the cause, evidently slipped away from the Wildlife Refuge headquarters hours before  the arrests, either to avoid a possible bloody confrontation, or, as he claimed, simply to visit his family in Arizona.  When he learned the next day that a warrant for his arrest had been issued, he arranged to surrender in Phoenix.

Although key players were now behind bars and unknown number, including women and children remained at the headquarters building or were patrolling the ground of the refuge.  It was a mixed bag of late arrivals, braggarts, loose cannons, Militia small fry.  By the next morning some were packing up and leaving, including some families.  They were allowed to pass checkpoints without arrest, although some may face future indictment.  Reporters who were able to interview some of those staying reported continued defiance.  At least one uploaded a cell phone video urging Militia members from around the country come to their relief and be prepared to shoot it out at roadblocks to get there.  

After the original suspects were all indicted on a laundry list of Federal felonies and denied bail, on Thursday morning Ammon Bundy through his attorney issued an appeal for those still on the Refuge to leave.  More packed up and left.  The Feds announced a 4 pm deadline to evacuate without immediate arrest.  That came and went.

Ammon Bundy and his clown posse--giving cowboys a bad name.
A couple of hours later a convoy of vehicles containing agents was seen driving past check points in the direction of the headquarters.  They returned with some reporters believing that they spotted individuals in the back seats trying to hunker down out of sight.  If so, no announcement has yet been made of who they might be.  It is possible that they were individuals who voluntarily surrendered, that they are being held with charges pending, or even that they were undercover agents who had infiltrated the occupiers.

At this writing speculation is that about four hard core protestors remain and that the bellicose and defiant Jason Patrick is claiming to represent new leadership.  The situation remains volatile, but the occupiers are now clearly surrounded and vastly outnumbered by a small army of Federal, State, and County law enforcement.

If I had a guess it would be that the Fed will play another waiting game and war of nerves, perhaps making occasional feints to keep those inside on edge and sleepless.  Unless they are attacked they will wait to spring lighting military style operation that will surprise and overwhelm the hold outs.
Also open to question is retaliation for Finicum’s death.  They are already claiming that he was executed with his hands up despite the video evidence to the contrary.  He has been declared a martyr.  Various nut jobs are already vowing vengeance.  Danger comes both from lone wolf true believers striking at law enforcement targets of convenience to more sophisticated operations like Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in revenge for Ruby Ridge.

One way or the other the Malheur occupation will end soon and Federal Fish and Wildlife Service personnel will soon again be in possession and begin repairing damage done by the invaders.  By summer water fowl and birders will be back to their peaceful interplay.

The cases will drag out in court for years.  Heavy sentences are likely.  So are more indictments of more minor players and perhaps even off-site accomplices and abettors. 
But besides the criminal cases and the vandalism of the fragile ecosystem and Native American archaeological sites, Bundy and his Yahoos also have to be held to account for damaging beyond repair the image of the Cowboy.  Instead of rugged individualists, they were shown repeatedly to be whiners with government subsidies, simple thieves, and blowhard braggarts.  America was not impressed, or fooled.
Do I look like a Militia Moron?
But now cowboy hats, quilted plaid flannel shirts, and beards have been identified with knuckle dragging idiots.  In case you hadn’t noticed, that is pretty much how this ex-Wyoming boy looks.  Small, toe-headed children riding in grocery store carts used to point at me and squeal with delight, “look at the Cowboy!”  Now their mothers get a panicked look on their face, and try to speed away from a terrorist.  People eye the messenger bag I carry to work wondering what kind of automatic weapon I may hide there.  Once strangers would call me Buffalo Bill or Tex.  I was taken for a country and western singer.  At worst I was looked upon as an amusing but eccentric codger.  Now they wonder if I am a Bundy uncle.
Now that’s a crime I’ll not soon forgive.


  1. This is a very complicated case that shouldn't be mocked. I encourage everyone to spend some time reading and learning about how we got to a situation where the U.S. government shot a U.S. citizen who was not a threat, to death. We need to be very responsible in our opinions today. It is not a time for off the cuff jokes.

  2. The US citizen you refer to was reaching for a gun that he had previously vowed to use if facing arrest.