Seven days later, they did.
Now the entire standoff is close to ending, with several arrested and the final occupier surrendered. One armed occupier is dead.
As the drama deescalates, it's becoming clear that Oregon officials' insistence that the FBI end the lawlessness helped end things decisively (if not, at one point, violently).
How this latest show of anti-government sentiment played out is very different from what happened in a similar standoff in Nevada in 2014, even as it involved the same Bundy family. There, things ended much less definitively (albeit less violently), thanks in part to state and local officials' missteps and ultimate decision to back off.
When the armed takeover started in Oregon, its close ties to the 2014 Nevada incident made federal officials wary. There, what was set to be a simple impoundment of obstinate rancher Cliven Bundy's illegally grazing cattle turned into a tense armed standoff with dozens of heavily armed people who had traveled across the country to stand up for their rights -- and make the government stand down.
Some former federal officials thought the government made a mistake in coming to take Bundy's cattle with so much back-up in tow. Their heavily armed presence helped tick off another heavily armed presence. When Oregon happened, all indications were that law enforcement was certainly not going to risk the same mistake -- or outcome.
But Brown insisted they figure out a way to end it. She said she had reached out to the White House and the Department of Justice, demanding action. "The residents of Harney County have been overlooked and underserved by federal officials' response thus far," she said.
Officials in Harney County did their part, too. The county's sheriff and judge made clear in no uncertain terms that the occupiers are not welcome there. There may be some residents in and around the rural southeastern town of Burns who sympathize with the anti-government sentiments of the occupiers, but residents were scared and wanted them to go home, they said.
"It seems like he's out of touch with reality," Harney County Judge Steve Grasty told the Associated Press of Ammon Bundy, the occupiers' leader and Cliven Bundy's son.
When they did take action, some of law enforcement's fears did come to fruition. An FBI arrest attempt one January evening as Ammon Bundy and seven others were on their way into town turned into a shootout. One occupier died.
The situation played out very differently than the one in Nevada, where until Wednesday Bundy illegally roamed his cattle freely on government-owned land, and his supporters who pointed guns at federal officials went unpunished. State and local officials did not speak with one voice.
At first, some Republican leaders in the state and nationally even embraced those coming to defend Bundy. At the height of the standoff, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) referred to people at the standoff as "patriots." In that same TV interview, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) called them "domestic terrorists."
(After Bundy eventually wondered out loud to the New York Times whether black people had been better off as slaves, Heller clarified his comments. "Patriots," he said, referred only to Bundy's supporters, such as Boy Scouts who showed up at the ranch.)
There were public disagreements about whether the governor and the congressman representing the area at that time and the county sheriff were even in contact with each other about whether to let the militia stand down. It was not a very smooth process. And it was very different from Oregon's.
The Nevada standoff eventually ended when government officials backed down. No blood had been spilled, but some argued with good reason that the instigators still maintained the upper hand.
The Oregon standoff is ending as the armed occupiers planned to turn themselves in Thursday. One man died in the process, and we have yet to determine the whole drama's impact on long-simmering tensions between ranchers and the government that owns much of the land they use.
It's clear that in both cases, the tone elected officials struck at the outset had a major impact on its outcome.