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FBI Keeps Negotiating With Defiant Oregon Refuge Holdouts

A convoy of armored vehicles and SUVs rolls past a barricade on the road near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Jan. 30, 2016.

The FBI negotiated further Saturday with four armed occupants at a remote federal wildlife refuge in Oregon while the holdouts in a video posted online expressed their mistrust of the government and reluctance to leave.

One of the four protesters remaining at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge said in a darkly lit video posted on Friday that he wanted to be assured he would not be arrested if he left. Others with him expressed similar resolve.

Tensions in the standoff remained high, four days after Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, 54, a spokesman for the group that seized buildings at the refuge January 2, was killed by police during the arrests of occupation leader Ammon Bundy and several other protesters as they traveled on a highway.

A memorial for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is seen where he was shot and killed by law enforcement on a highway north of Burns, Ore., January 30, 2016.
A memorial for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is seen where he was shot and killed by law enforcement on a highway north of Burns, Ore., January 30, 2016.

The FBI said Finicum reached for a gun during the confrontation, which was recorded on grainy video, but his family disputes that account.

In taking over the refuge, the protesters criticized federal control of vast tracts of land in a flare-up of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres in the West.

"Negotiations are ongoing," FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said, declining to give details on the talks or comment on the video.

Bundy has issued messages through his attorney urging those remaining at the refuge to stand down, and saying they would continue to fight through the courts.

But the holdouts at the refuge in the video, which they streamed live on YouTube, said they did not want to leave the site, which is 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the small ranching community of Burns in the state's rural southeast, and they expressed mistrust of the U.S. government.

"I don't believe that they have any authority over me because they're illegal and I can't bow down to that," one man, who described himself as defending the U.S. Constitution, said on the video.

"And I came out here to see this to the end and I don't just quit because I got scared or I might be killed."

The same man later in the video said he did not want to face arrest and the possibility of a felony, which could prevent him from owning a gun.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward earlier this week said the protesters went too far in their armed occupation of the refuge in his county.