Leader of armed Oregon militia rejects county sheriff offer to end standoff

Ammon Bundy (L) meets with Harney County Sheriff David Ward along a road south of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 7, 2016.  © Jim Urquhart
Militia leader Ammon Bundy has refused to leave Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge which has been occupied since Saturday, despite an offer of safe passage from the Harney County Sheriff, Reuters reports.

The sheriff, David Wade, met with Bundy on Thursday with the offer coming on condition they vacate Oregon. Bundy declined the suggestion, telling reporters, “we always consider what people say.”

This meeting was an attempt by the Sheriff’s Office to end the situation peacefully. According to Oregon Live, the sheriff told Bundy that he was, “here to offer safe escort out.” The discussion followed Wednesday’s town hall meeting which drew roughly 400 people. The county has announced plans to meet with the group on Friday.

Meanwhile, Oregon Governor Kate Brown released a statement on Thursday decrying the activities of Bundy’s militia and ordering the group to “decamp immediately and be held accountable.” She called the occupation a part of “tactics we Oregonians don’t agree with.”

The camp was created in an effort to protest the sentencing of two Oregonian farmers, Dwight and Steve Hammond. The two men were found guilty of arson when they started a fire to clear their property that spread to federal lands.

Dwight, 73, originally received a sentence of three months in prison while Steve spent one year and a day in prison. However, federal prosecutors appealed their sentences and requested that they receive the minimum of five years. The Hammonds turned themselves in on Monday.

Bundy and an estimated 20 militants took over the Malheur headquarters on Saturday. Since then, additional protesters have joined the group and the militia members have been allowed to come and go as they please.