On Jan. 2, a group of well-armed militants drove to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, took control of its headquarters, and posted guards in camouflage outside. The militia members, led in part by to Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Cliven Bundy's sons, said they were willing to kill and be killed if necessary in their effort to have federal land turned over to local authorities.
Yes, the anti-government radicals were demanding a government handout from Washington in the form of free land.
Almost immediately, the threat of violence seemed quite real, but in the days that followed, very little happened. If the militants were expecting some kind of armed confrontation, they were probably surprised to discover that law enforcement officials can be extraordinarily patient.
Last night, however, the calm was interrupted by gun fire. NBC News reported this morning:
Oregon occupation protest leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested Tuesday in a highway traffic stop that ended in gunfire and left an anti-government rancher dead. Five others were also detained. [...] One of their supporters, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, 54, was killed in the shooting, his daughter told NBC News.... Finicum had previously stated that he preferred death to jail, telling NBC News in a Jan. 6 interview that he had no intention of being taken into custody.
Three others were arrested at the scene, and two more were arrested later "in separate but related incidents." They will reportedly face "federal felony charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats."
As is always the case in a situation like this, many of the details of what transpired are still coming together, but based on what we know, it appears no one from law enforcement was hurt during last night's confrontation.
As for what happens now, one of the remaining militants at the wildlife refuge, Jason Patrick told NBC News that those who are still there are discussing if and how the occupation might end.
"Right now ... I'm talking to other leadership," he said.
The Bundys told the Oregonian in early January, "We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely." It's turning out to be quite a bit less time than that.