The FBI wanted a “peaceful resolution” to a takeover of a federal wildlife refuge by antigovernment extremists near Burns, Or. The Christian Science Monitor says the roadside capture Tuesday of the leaders, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, on charges of interfering with federal officers suggested law enforcement was bearing in mind a decades-long shift in thinking on how to deal with armed domestic extremists. The strategy, which resulted in the arrest of eight occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was complicated by gunfire on a lonely stretch of desert highway where law enforcement shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher who had vowed to go down fighting.
Could the violence buttress the occupiers' central complaints about an overreaching government? “The risk here is that you had people who were basically perceived by the public as clowns, and now an incident like this can shift that perception and give them what they wanted, which is the status of martyr and victim,” says former FBI agent Michael German, who infiltrated white supremacist groups in the 1990s and is now at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “So, I hope [law enforcement] had a very good reason for why they thought that [stop] was necessary, and weren't just bending to political pressure and frustration. Because that should have been a lesson from Waco and Ruby Ridge, where the 'win' was short-lived and only led to more problems.” In Waco, federal agents raided a Branch Davidian compound in Texas, resulting in the deaths of more than 80 men, women, and children. At the Ruby Ridge in Idaho, a shootout led to the deaths of a 14-year-old boy, a woman, and a U.S. marshal.