Oregon occupation protest leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested Tuesday in a highway traffic stop that ended in gunfire and left an anti-government rancher dead. Five others were also detained.
Law enforcement authorities intercepted the group as it headed to a community meeting north of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where they began a sit-in on Jan. 2. Officials had been waiting for an opportunity to arrest the group's leadership away from the refuge to minimize the potential for violence, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News.
The nine activists were traveling in two vehicles 45 miles outside of the refuge when the FBI and Oregon State Police pulled them over, the official said. Some tried to get away, then there was gunfire.
Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, 54, was killed in the shooting, his daughter told NBC News. Ryan Bundy was injured, the official said.
It was not yet clear who fired the shots.
“We all thought it would end, but not like this," the daughter, Challice Finicum Finch, said. "My dad did stress that they couldn't pull a gun on them [officers] unless they pulled a gun. They were all committed to not firing on federal agents."
Finicum had previously stated that he preferred death to jail, telling NBC News in a Jan. 6 interview that he had no intention of being taken into custody. "There are things more important than your life, and freedom is one of them," he said at the time. "I'm prepared to defend freedom."
At the federal wildlife refuge, protester Jason Patrick told NBC News that the remaining supporters were discussing if and how the occupation might end.
“Right now … I’m talking to other leadership. It’s just Americans that are defending the constitution that’s what it looks like,” he said.
“Peaceful resolution is what you keep hearing and a peaceful resolution is what we expect,” he added.
Later, a Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter at the scene said the remaining occupiers had pledged to stay.
Four carloads of occupiers left early Wednesday, and Patrick said children at the scene had gone. Meanwhile, police and FBI officers established a series of checkpoints along key routes leading to the site.
The Bundys and others had been scheduled to meet authorities in the town of John Day, 70 miles north of Burns at 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET).
The arrests took place on Highway 395, which links Burns and John Day. Shots were fired at about 4:25 p.m. (7:25 p.m. ET), the FBI said.
“Peaceful people were going to meet with other Americans regarding the constitution and a routine traffic stop winds up with one of my friends dead and another one shot,” Patrick said.
Three others were arrested at the scene, authorities said: Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada; Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana.
Two more — Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona, and Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati — were arrested later in separate but related incidents, the FBI said.
All face federal felony charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats, authorities said.
Santilli is well known locally as a webcaster and activist who has vigorously supported the Bundys. He was live-streaming the initial confrontation when his feed went down late Tuesday afternoon.
Later, another member of the group, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, turned himself in at the Peoria, Arizona, Police Department, the FBI said.
The Bundys are sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights.
Cox's husband, Donald, told NBC News on Tuesday night that his wife — who'd been planning to return home that day to Utah — "isn't a member of anything but felt like the cause was good."
Shawna Cox, a mother of 12 and grandmother of 43, has been friends with the Bundy family for about 15 years, Donald Cox said.
"She's a cowgirl," he said. "She's a patriot. This is all about her constitutional rights."