Oregon Militants Vow To 'Kill And Be Killed If Necessary,' But FBI Isn't Biting

The feds are taking a calculated approach to the ongoing standoff in Oregon.

BURNS, Ore. -- The gunmen who have occupied a federal building here for three days will resist with force any attempt to remove them, Ammon Bundy, a leader of the militants, said Sunday. But federal authorities have no immediate plans to rush in to retake the remote building, a federal law enforcement source told The Huffington Post.

The FBI is working closely with state police, and FBI officials are busy establishing a public information office in Burns. But due to a number of factors -- the crisis is unfolding in a remote part of Oregon; it doesn't appear to be a life-or-death situation; and there are no hostages involved -- law enforcement officials want to avoid unnecessarily escalating the standoff, the source said. The FBI instead hopes to get a better handle on the situation over the next few days.

The FBI will not be releasing specific information about law enforcement movements, but it is working with local law enforcement agencies to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge," officials from the bureau said in a statement.

But near the facility, people aren't convinced. Jon Ritzheimer, a militiaman who has organized anti-Muslim rallies, said in a video that he parked outside the refuge's gate “armed with the Constitution and a camera” so he could document the situation if the feds "try and come in here fully armed and create another Ruby Ridge or Waco event.”

Media gather outside the entrance of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 3, 2016, where an arme
Media gather outside the entrance of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 3, 2016, where an armed anti-government group have taken over a building at the federal wildlife refuge, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.

In the parking lot, Pete Santilli, a radio talk show host from Ohio, said he hoped for an open line of communication with law enforcement. But he said that so far, none had materialized. "We know based on history that the federal government will try to take control, and they will try to bring force upon these people," he said. "They will literally kill these people that are here, in order to make their message."

Robert McKnight, 38, who was born and raised in Burns, said he's "worried for these people, not law enforcement." He added that "you got Ruby Ridge, Waco, all kinds of people that have tried to stand up, and they get slaughtered."

Jennifer, a 30-year-old rancher who didn't want to give her last name, said that if a confrontation happens, "it'll be because of the FBI." She added: "These people are not looking for a fight, they just want something to change. I mean, they are looking for a fight, but not guns blazing, taking people out."

Federal officials are prepared for increased media attention in the coming days. “If you are sending satellite trucks or the like, we would like to help prepare for that as much as possible,” an FBI official told reporters in an email.

For now, there are no sirens, no police cars zooming to the seized building and no SWAT teams arriving in armored vehicles. In the parking lot of the refuge's headquarters building, journalists mingle freely with activists. The 30-mile stretch of road between Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the militants are holed up, is snowy and barren.

The men occupying the facility include Ammon and two other sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose legal battle with the federal government culminated in an armed standoff with law enforcement in 2014.

A man who claimed his name was "Fluffy Unicorn," and said he was a "bodyguard" for the Bundys, stands at the foot of the road. Law enforcement has made no effort to contact the occupiers, he said.

“We are not hurting anybody or damaging any property. We would expect that they understand that we have given them no reason to use lethal force upon us or any other force,” Ammon Bundy told reporters on Sunday.

But if the feds "try to come and force that issue," he added, "then they make it about a building and facility and lives could be lost because of that.”

The Oregonian's Ian Kullgren tweeted early Sunday that he'd "talked to [militiaman] Ryan Bundy on the phone," and that Bundy "said they're willing to kill and be killed if necessary."

Dana Liebelson reported from Burns, Oregon. Nick Baumann and Ryan J. Reilly reported from Washington, D.C.