BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — Ammon Bundy, the leader of the militia occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was seen leaving the FBI headquarters near the site.
Bundy was seen leading a group of trucks out of the FBI headquarters and into town, and it did not appear the group was heading back toward the refuge. Sources told KOIN 6 News the FBI and Bundy will meet again later this day, although what is being discussed has not been revealed.
With reporters watching, he spoke on the phone, apparently with an FBI negotiator. The conversation was streamed online by another member of Bundy’s group.
Bundy said his group is “not going to escalate” the situation, and he agreed to speak with authorities again Friday.
The FBI says its response to the occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon by an armed group has been careful because authorities want to avoid violence.
In a statement Thursday the agency said the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon has caused “tremendous disruption and hardship” for people in the community and our “response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution.”
Local authorities are focused on keeping the townspeople safe around the clock.
“The Oregon State Police are located here in Harney County, assisting the sheriff’s office with their public safety mission,” said OSP Lt. Bill Fugate. “We already have a patrol office located here in Burns with patrol troopers, and fish and wildlife troopers and we’ve been augmenting that patrol with some troopers from outside the area. “
The face-to-face meeting comes one day after Gov. Kate Brown called the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge “absolutely intolerable” and more militiamen from around the country drove in truck-by-truck to join the cause.
Bundy reportedly met with his top-ranking counterparts for several hours on Wednesday, but kept a tight lip about what was actually discussed.
The heavily armed militants believe their cause is not only just, but an act of divine intervention.
“God wants us here, there’s a sense that’s beckoning and it comes from heaven,” militiaman Kelly Gneiting said. “We’re doing what’s right, we’re doing what the founding fathers would do because we’re inspired by God, also.”
But the town seems to overwhelmingly disagree, and Gov. Brown has seemingly run out of patience.
In letters to both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Gov. Brown urged federal action soon:“For more than two weeks now, these radicals have been allowed to stay unlawfully in the refuge approximately 30 miles to the south of Burns…The unlawful seizure of the refuge by criminals seeling to advance a misguided agenda is in an of itself a strain … The residents of Harny County are being intimidated in their own hometown by armed criminals who appear to be seeing occasions for confrontation … I request on behalf of my fellow Oregonians that you instruct your agencies to end the unlawful occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as safely and quickly as possible.”
Most of the local residents who spoke with KOIN 6 News adamantly oppose Bundy’s occupation. Bundy, though, maintains that “the majority of people are in support of us.”
But these meetings with federal authorities have people wondering if the end is in sight.
“We’re still in the process of unwinding the title and unconstitutional transactions and adjudicating or outlining the rights’ that the individuals have here,” Bundy said, “and so we’re going to continue to do that.”
It does not appear the FBI will simply acquiesce to his demands. But there is at the very least an open dialogue between the militia and the federal government they oppose.The Associated Press contributed to this report.