POLITICS
01/04/2016 07:56 pm ET

Sheriff To Armed Occupiers in Oregon: 'Go Home To Your Families'

"You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation."
Harney County Sheriff David Ward speaks to the media on Jan. 4, 2016, in Burns, Oregon, after a group of anti-government
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Harney County Sheriff David Ward speaks to the media on Jan. 4, 2016, in Burns, Oregon, after a group of anti-government militants took over the headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge.

BURNS, Ore. -- A local sheriff on Monday said that it's time for the armed protesters who seized control of a remote federal property in Oregon to go home.

The militants, led by the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, have occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday, when they broke off from a protest over the prison sentences of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven. The Hammonds were convicted of arson, imprisoned, released, and given new, harsher sentences last year. On Monday, they turned themselves in to a federal correctional facility in California.

"I want to talk directly to the people at the wildlife refuge," Harney County Sheriff David Ward told reporters assembled at a junior high school in Burns, Oregon. "You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation."

"It's time for you to leave our community, go home to your families, and end this peacefully," he added.

Law enforcement officials have stayed far away from the wildlife refuge that the militants are occupying. The FBI is working closely with state police, but federal authorities have no immediate plans to rush in to retake the property, a federal law enforcement source told The Huffington Post.

Bill Fugate, a lieutenant working for the Oregon State Police, also told HuffPost that officials have not beefed up the police response. "We haven't really changed our patrol status," he said.

But people near the wildlife refuge remain concerned about a potential standoff. Robert McKnight, 38, who was in the parking lot of the refuge headquarters, said on Sunday that he was "worried for these people, not law enforcement."

"You got Ruby Ridge, Waco, all kinds of people that have tried to stand up, and they get slaughtered," he added.

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