AG Lynch: Refuge occupiers ‘will be dealt with’

Occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lasted 41 days

Ammon Bundy (plaid shirt) argues with Harney County deputies and FBI outside their office, Jan. 22, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was in Portland to address the progress the Portland Police Bureau has made in community policing, said federal officials took the occupation very seriously throughout its entire 41 days.

AG Loretta Lynch speaks in Portland, March 3 2016. (KOIN)
AG Loretta Lynch speaks in Portland, March 3 2016. (KOIN)

She said there was a coordinated effort between law enforcement agencies that worked well.

“There was a great deal of coordination between not just the federal agents on the ground – the FBI – but also the sheriff’s department of Burns and Harney County,” she said.

The standoff lasted as long as it did because, she said, every case is different.

“We always evaluate how to respond to a situation based on the unique circumstances presented and the individuals with whom we are dealing,” Lynch said.

“While we understand the sentiment and the desire that action could have been taken days earlier and could have been taken swiftly, we tried to balance all of the equities there, the most important being public safety.”

The occupation began Jan. 2, 2016 and continued unabated until Jan. 26. On that day, leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy plus 14 others were arrested, and militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum was shot to death during a traffic stop.

The occupation did not end until February 11, when the final 4 holdouts surrendered to federal officials.

To date, a total of 25 people face federal charges connected with the takeover of the Malheur refuge.

Cliven Bundy, who led his own armed standoff with the federal government in 2014, was arrested when he landed at Portland International Airport in a publically announced plan to visit the final occupiers at the refuge.

KOIN 6 News reporter Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.

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