By Peter Henderson and Edward Tobin
(Reuters) – U.S. and state officials in Oregon on Wednesday set up checkpoints around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where an armed group pledged to prolong its standoff with the government a day after one protester was killed and eight others were arrested.
Authorities said the new security involves a series of checkpoints along key routes into and out of the refuge, and was made out of an “abundance of caution” to protect the public and law enforcement. Only ranchers who own property in the area will be allowed in and anyone coming out of the refuge will have to show identity and have their vehicle searched.
The month-long occupation of the wildlife reserve over federal control of large tracts of the country turned violent on Tuesday after officers stopped a car carrying protest leader Ammon Bundy and others near the refuge. Activists said Robert LaVoy Finicum, a rancher who acted as a spokesman for the occupiers, was killed.
There were no details on what set off the shooting. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said authorities would hold a news conference on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. PST (1730 GMT) in Burns, a town near the refuge.
Amid concerns that Finicum’s killing could escalate violence, the militia groups Pacific Patriots Network, Oathkeepers and the Idaho III% said in a joint statement they were issuing an immediate “stand by” order.
“During this time, cooler heads must prevail,” the statement said. “We do not wish to inflame the current situation and will engage in open dialogue until all of the facts have been gathered.”
Anti-militia sentiment also lit up social media, making #OregonStandoff among the top trending hashtags.
One of the remaining occupiers at the reserve, Jason Patrick, told Reuters by phone they would stay until the “redress of grievances.”
“I’ve heard ‘peaceful resolution’ for weeks now and now there’s a cowboy who is my friend who is dead – so prepare for the peaceful resolution,” Patrick said.