Oregon police on Friday for the first time arrested a man in connection with the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge, apprehending a member of the group over two stolen government vehicles, authorities said.
Oregon State Police arrested Kenneth Medenbach, 62, outside a Safeway in Burns and recovered two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vehicles reported stolen from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the refuge occupied by an armed group for nearly two weeks, police said.
Medenbach, of Crescent, was arrested on probable cause of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, the Harney County Joint Information Center said. Both vehicles were recovered at the Safeway, authorities said. It wasn't immediately clear why there were two vehicles recovered and only one arrest.
A member of the group occupying the building at the wildlife refuge confirmed Medenbach is a member of the group, and blamed him for "doing something stupid." It wasn’t immediately clear where the two vehicles were recovered.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is grateful for the quick actions from law enforcement," said service spokesperson Megan Nagel said in a statement.
"We will continue to work with law enforcement to recover vehicles bought and paid for by the American people to care for their national wildlife refuge," Nagel said.
Friday's arrest is first arrest connected to the occupation of a building at the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that began Jan. 2.
The armed group, led by Ammon Bundy, occupied the headquarters of the refuge near Burns following a protest in that town over the fate of two local ranchers ordered back to prison following their arson convictions for burning public land.
An attorney for those ranchers, a father and son who surrendered at a California prison Jan. 4, has said Bundy's group does not speak for them.
Meanwhile, the group said a planned meeting with the community likely won’t happen Friday, and called on the FBI to leave the area.
Arizona rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, who has acted as a spokesperson for the group, accused the FBI of inflaming tensions in the area by their presence.
"We can get on with the business and get out of here quicker if you go home," he told reporters.
The group had planned to meet with the community and explain their actions and timetable for withdrawal Friday evening, but Finicum said Harney County Judge Steve Grasty has prevented them from securing a meeting place.
Grasty has said the county will not do anything that supports or enables the Bundy group, NBC affiliate KTVZ reported.
"That means no county building is available to the armed militia, including Mr. Bundy," Grasty said, according to the station. Finicum said the group still plans to hold a meeting "soon" but couldn't say exactly when.