After a month and a half, the last anti-government radical has left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon.
After last night’s tense, harrowing confrontation, during which it felt like both the FBI and four remaining militiamen could open fire on each other at any moment, the final holdout just surrendered himself into federal custody. Thus ends weeks of lawlessness in a small pocket of Oregon, in which a whole community was menaced by rifle-toting, Jefferson-quoting zealots, and law enforcement mostly watched quietly.
David Fry was the last to leave the compound, which a month ago was bustling with armed pseudo-patriots who considered the remote nature reserve an armed fortress and symbol of libertarian resistance. Fry was also perhaps the most psychologically fragile of the bunch: during the final moments, all streamed via YouTube, he made repeated promises to kill himself and shoot federal agents, condemned abortions, complained about taxes, invoked CIA drone strikes, nuclear power, and a litany of other frantic asides. Ideology at Occupied Malheur was both abundant and scattered.
The standoff’s climax was made all the more unsettling by the fact that Fry was in constant cell phone contact with Gavin Seim and KrisAnne Hall, both prominent figures in the anti-government militia scene without any training in life-or-death negotiations, who did just as much to rile Fry up as they did talk him down. Their conversation jumped wildly from biblical scripture and the life of Jesus Christ to Islam, Obama, and whether or not Fry could get a pizza if he gave himself up. It seemed entirely possible that at any moment Fry would either aim his gun at the FBI or squeeze the trigger at his own head.
In the final moments before Fry walked out to meet the FBI and was placed in cuffs, he signed off by saying he would eat one more cookie and maybe smoke a cigarette. The illegal occupation of the Malheur compound lasted 41 days.