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Witness: Dead Oregon militiaman "charged" at cops

BURNS, Ore. - As a local sheriff made an emotional plea to the remaining members of the militia occupying a national park in Oregon to give up the now-deadly standoff and go home, the last moments of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum are starting to come to light.

Some witnesses said Wednesday a man who was killed by police had charged at authorities during the arrests of armed activists occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge. But others say he complied with orders.

The incident happened as eight members of the militia, including its leading Ammon Bundy, were arrested in a confrontation with officials.

Authorities have so far only said a man died when officers opened fire during a traffic stop Tuesday. The daughter of Finicum tells the Oregonian it was the Arizona rancher.

Police have not detailed what led to the shooting or if Finicum or any of the other ranchers exchanged gunfire with officers.

Arizona cattle rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum talks to the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 5, 2016.
Arizona cattle rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum talks to the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 5, 2016. Jim Urquhart/Reuters

The 55-year-old was a frequent and public presence at the refuge, often speaking for the group at news conferences.

"This is where I'm going to breathe my last breath, whether I'm 90, 95 or 55," Finicum told The Associated Press on Jan. 5. " ... I'm going to not spend my days in a cell."

Mark McConnell said Wednesday he drove one of the vehicles stopped by authorities and that Finicum was in another and "charged" at officers.

1 killed, several arrested in Oregon wildlife refuge clash

McConnell said in a video posted to Facebook that the rancher took off and authorities pursued.

He says he didn't see the shooting, but others in the group said he charged after law enforcement.

A message was left Wednesday at a phone number believed to belong to McConnell.

Briana Bundy, group leader Ammon Bundy's sister-in-law, said Finicum and others "did everything they asked, and they murdered him." It's not clear how she got her information.

A local sheriff got emotional after the confrontation as he urged the armed activists still occupying the national wildlife preserve in Oregon to move on, saying the standoff "has been tearing our community apart."

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, who polices the region where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located, said at a news conference Wednesday that "there doesn't have to be bloodshed in our community."

He said law enforcement worked hard to create a plan to peacefully end the occupation of more than three weeks. The group is protesting federal land policy.

Ward said the death didn't have to happen. He called on people to work through appropriate channels to air their grievances, saying, "We don't arm up and rebel."

Militia leader Ammon Bundy, others arrested

Jason Patrick, one of the leaders of the occupation, told radio station Oregon Public Broadcasting that five or six group members remain inside the refuge.

Details of the fatal encounter were sparse. It happened as Bundy and his followers were heading to a community meeting late Tuesday afternoon in John Day, about 70 miles north of Burns.

CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports that Bundy's brother, Ryan Bundy, 43, was shot but has non-life-threatening injuries. Ryan Bundy was among those arrested.

Brand Thornton, one of Bundy's supporters, said he left the refuge Monday and wasn't sure what those remaining would do.

"The entire leadership is gone," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I wouldn't blame any of them for leaving."

Thornton called the arrests "a dirty trick" by law enforcement.

In addition to Ammon and Ryan Bundy, those arrested were: Brian Cavalier, 44; Shawna Cox, 59; and Ryan Payne, 32 - apprehended during the traffic stop on U.S. Highway 395 Tuesday afternoon. Authorities said two others - Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, 45, and Peter Santilli, 50 - were arrested separately in Burns, while FBI agents in Arizona arrested another, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32.

Each will 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, authorities said.

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