POLITICS

Oregon Standoff Officially Ends After Lone Holdout David Fry Surrenders

Fry ordered FBI agents to scream "Hallelujah" before he gave himself up.

The final occupier of a remote federal property in Oregon surrendered to law enforcement Thursday, ending a nearly six-week standoff that tore apart a rural community, captivated a national audience and left one militant dead.

David Fry, 27, turned himself over to authorities following a lengthy negotiation that was broadcast live on YouTube. He was detained upon his surrender.

Three other holdouts from the group -- Sean and Sandy Anderson, 47 and 48, and Jeff Banta, 46 -- surrendered Thursday morning. Like Fry, all three were arrested as they walked out of the refuge to an FBI checkpoint.

At one point during the live stream, posted by activist broadcaster Gavin Seim, Fry announced that he would kill himself if FBI agents advanced on his position.

But he later promised to walk out after demanding that agents scream "Hallelujah."

Fry, Banta and the Andersons were the remaining four occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which armed protesters took over on Jan. 2. The group was led by the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The refuge is about 30 miles from the town of Burns, Oregon.

The occupiers took over the refuge to protest the imprisonment of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, who were convicted of arson, imprisoned, released and then given harsher sentences last year. The occupiers said they were also protesting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Last month, a group of militant leaders were arrested in a highway confrontation with law enforcement. One occupier, LaVoy Finicum, was killed by authorities.

A federal grand jury indicted 16 people earlier this month in connection with the occupation, all of whom face a federal felony count of conspiracy to impede U.S. officers from doing their duties by force, intimidation or threat. The United States Attorney for the District of Oregon announced on Thursday that nine additional people had been indicted, but two of them remain at large. 

Among those indicted were Ammon and Ryan Bundy; Pete Santilli, an Ohio talk-radio host who was sympathetic to the occupiers' cause, but said he was covering the standoff as a journalist; Duane Ehmer, a cowboy who was often seen with his horse, Hellboy; and Jon Ritzheimer, an anti-Islam protester.

Cliven Bundy himself was also charged Thursday with assault on a federal officer and conspiracy, among other crimes, for leading a separate armed standoff in Nevada in 2014.

The Oregon occupiers repeatedly said that they were embraced by the local community, but the reality was more complicated. Harney County has a population of roughly 7,100, and has seen its ranching and timber industries suffer in recent years. The county was the most government-dependent in Oregon in 2013, according to The New York Times. Today, 60 percent of the pay earned in Harney County comes from the public sector.

The Malheur occupation drove a wedge between ranchers who see the federal government as stymying their efforts to making a living by denying them grazing permits and leases, and those who depend on the government for jobs.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said last month that the militants were costing the state about $100,000 per week, a number that didn't include salaries paid to federal employees who couldn't work.

At a heated community meeting during the first week of the occupation, a vast majority of locals voted in a straw poll for the occupiers to leave. After another meeting, a social services assistant for the Paiute tribe, which claims that its ancestral territory includes some of the land the occupiers wanted, told The Huffington Post that "as a Native, if we were to go out there and fight back like they are, we would have been dead by now."

At the same time, some local residents have said they appreciate that the outsiders are drawing attention to the economic issues they face.

"Let's just knock this crap off and go back to being friends and neighbors," Harney County resident Jesse Svejcar said at a community meeting last month. He said that he disagreed with the militants but that he "will thank them," because "if nothing else, they gave a lot of good people in this county a voice."

Fry, who is from Blanchester, Ohio, was by turns belligerent and incoherent during Thursday's standoff, ranting about President Barack Obama, Trayvon Martin and UFOs.

"I’m tired, everybody," he said. "I’ll die before I leave here. I’ll kill myself before you guys fuckin’ take me. If you guys throw a gas can in here, I’ll do it, too."

In the end, it didn't come to that.

This post has been updated with the announcement that nine additional people have been indicted. 

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