Cliven Bundy, the scofflaw Nevada rancher whose dispute over grazing fees led to a 2014 armed showdown with the federal government, was arrested late Wednesday in Oregon as he went to lend support to armed militants holed up at a wildlife preserve.
The 74-year-old Bundy was charged with conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer — the same federal charge two of his sons face in connection with the Jan. 2 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The elder Bundy also faces weapons charges.
His bodyguard, Jonathan Speece, was reportedly questioned and released, and a second man traveling with them, Jason Blomgren, was also arrested on unspecified charges.
His family posted on their Facebook page that a SWAT team was awaiting Bundy’s arrival at the Portland airport and took him into custody.
The rancher and his companions were on his way from Portland to Burns, Oregon, near the nature preserve where FBI agents have closed in on four remaining occupiers.
Bundy’s sons led the month-long takeover of the wildlife preserve in an attempt to shake off federal control of public lands, citing a highly specific and legally dubious interpretation of the U.S. Constitution — which they believe forbids most federal land ownership.
One of those militants, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was shot and killed by law enforcement officers who were trying to arrest him.
Video released by the FBI shows Finicum reaching twice toward a jacket pocket — where investigators found a loaded weapon — after exiting his truck.
Bundy had been under federal scrutiny — but had avoided arrest — since his own armed standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
He has not paid grazing fees for decades and owes more than $1 million in unpaid fees and penalties.
Right-wing militia members flocked to his ranch in April 2014 as federal agents attempted to round up Bundy’s cattle on public land.
Federal authorities eventually stood down to avoid bloodshed, and Bundy had not faced any legal consequences until now.
Some of the militants who took part in that showdown went to Oregon with Bundy’s sons — and several of them have been arrested in connection with the occupation.