Robert "LaVoy" Finicum died at the hands of Oregon State Police on
Jan. 26 after he ran from his pickup truck at a roadblock along a
snow-covered roadside during the occupation by lands rights
protesters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Relatives of Finicum, who was a spokesman for the group that seized
buildings at the refuge, have he posed no threat during the
His widow, Jeanette Finicum, read a prepared statement in St.
George, Utah, on Tuesday, asserting that her husband was ambushed.
“He was walking with his hands in the air. A symbol of surrender,"
she said. "We have talked with an independent investigator who has
stated that the video provides a setup assassination."
Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said at a news conference in
Bend, Oregon, that a loaded 9 mm handgun was found in Finicum's
jacket pocket following the shooting.
Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said eight shots were
fired at Finicum, six of them by Oregon State Police officers and
two by FBI agents.
An autopsy found that three of the bullets fired by Oregon State
Police officers struck Finicum in the base of the neck, shoulder and
lower back and led to his death, Norris said.
"The six shots fired by the Oregon State Police were justified and
in fact necessary," Norris said.
During the news conference, officials played video and audio tapes
of the confrontation, during which Finicum can be heard telling law
enforcement officers: "Go ahead, put the bullet through me."
At another point he is heard to say: "If you want a bloodbath, it's
on your hands."
The videotape had been released previously but was newly synched
with video and audio taken from inside the pickup truck by a
protester. The original videotape was played in slow motion at times
to show what law enforcement officials said was Finicum reaching for
his weapon immediately before he was shot.
The deadly encounter unfolded moments after Finicum sped away from
law enforcement officers who had just taken protest leaders Ammon
and Ryan Bundy into custody, then tried to run a police roadblock,
plowing into a snowbank and narrowly missing an FBI agent.
[to top of second column]
Finicum can be seen raising his hands as he emerged from his
vehicle, then turning as he apparently flails his arms and then
falls to the ground. His precise movements are difficult to discern
from the video.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that its
inspector general's office was investigating the actions of the
FBI's Hostage Rescue Team in the Finicum shooting.
The takeover, which began on Jan. 2 with at least a dozen armed men,
was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted
of setting fires that spread to federal property in the vicinity of
It also marked the latest flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush
Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions
of acres in the West.
“What’s important to me is what was going on in Mr. Finicum’s head,"
said Mike Arnold, a lawyer for Ammon Bundy who said "non-lethal
rounds" were fired by law enforcement officials as Finicum pulled
away from police in his pickup.
"By the time he got to the roadblock in his mind he believed that he
was being fired upon unlawfully and that this was an ambush,” Arnold
told reporters after Tuesday's news conference.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that members of the Finicum
family were expected to issue a statement later on Tuesday.
The final four holdouts were taken into custody on Feb. 17, ending
the 41-day standoff. At least 16 people have been charged in
connection with the occupation.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Eric Johnson, Dan Whitcomb and
Victoria Cavaliere; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Dan Grebler
and Tom Brown)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.