The family of Robert LaVoy Finicum, 55, who was killed by police in connection with a protest occupation of federal property in Oregon, have lashed out at the government’s official justification for his death, charging it was a “set up assassination.”
Critics point out police investigators in Bend, Oregon, said one FBI agent was suspected of lying about the shooting. And Finicum’s supporters suspect four other agents may have helped cover up misbehavior.
“They shot my husband, they left him lying in the snowbank – no medical assistance, no charges, no arraignment, no preliminary hearing, no indictment, and no trial by a jury – and should they just walk free? It just is not right,” Jeanette Finicum said in a statement released only hours after the FBI and Oregon state police presented their arguments.
“The consolation I have is that hundreds of thousands of Americans have seen and know the truth and believe as I do that my husband was murdered ‘intentionally, deliberately and with malice,'” she said. “My lawyer has assured me that we will seek justice in a different court, under different circumstances – and I look forward to the day when these men do face a jury that is unbiased enough to return a fair verdict.”
Finicum was killed Jan. 26 during the 41-day occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by ranchers and supporters protesting what they described as overreaching prosecution of two ranchers over a wildfire.
Oregon State Police and the FBI set up a roadblock at which Finicum and Ryan Bundy were shot.
The sheriff’s office released a video that showed both the view from a helicopter and from inside the car Finicum was driving.
See video of the shooting [Viewer discretion advised due to harsh language and long-distance images of shooting]:
A number of people have been kept in solitary confinement since their arrests for the standoff on charges ranging from impeding officers to intimidation and threats.
When stopped, Finicum shouted at officers: “I’m going to go meet the sheriff. Do as you damn well please.”
At one point he said: “Do you want blood on your hands? Get it done, because we got people to see and places to go.”
Video shows him getting out his vehicle and taking a few steps. He apparently raises his hands before multiple shots are fired.
“The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe,” Billy Williams, U.S. attorney for the district of Oregon, said in a statement released at the time the arrests were made. “It is a time for healing, reconciliation among neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal.”
But on Tuesday, law enforcement investigators in Bend held a news conference to say Finicum was shot three times in the back and killed when one bullet pierced his heart. An investigation was focusing on the five FBI agents, whose names were kept concealed. U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was leading the inquiry.
A prosecutor ruled Finicum’s shooting was justified because state law allows use of deadly force when officers believe a person is about to seriously injury or kill someone.
But the video raised a long list of questions, including why there were additional flurries of shots even minutes after Finicum was shot and killed.
Also, exactly what prompted the officers to let loose a barrage of shots that left, according to a private autopsy, nine bullet wounds.
The Bend investigators said one FBI agent, part of the Hostage Rescue Team, didn’t report two shots he fired, and four colleagues were under investigation for conduct relating to events after the shooting.
Jeanette Finicum, while promising a more complete statement after reviewing authorities’ claims, was unconvinced by the official statements.
“The purpose of that announcement was for state and federal agencies to continue to lay the foundation of their legal case,” she said in the prepared document. “However, they also continue to bring forward selective evidence. As in all such situations there is another side to this story.”
She continued: “This was not a traffic stop. It was an ambush with a roadblock placed on a blind curve along a lonely stretch of highway. I am told that in law enforcement and prosecuting circles this is called a ‘Deadman’s blockade,’ and is designed to allow a ‘kill stop’ which is illegal.”
She also rejected claims her husband was “reaching for a gun.”
“The FBI’s aerial video was of poor quality, edited and provided no audio. Our family asserts that he was shot with both hands up, he was not reaching for anything at the time of the first shot. He was walking with his hands in the air, a symbol of surrender. When he reached down to his left hip he was reacting to the pain of having been shot,” she said.
“We have talked with an independent investigator who has stated that the ‘video proves a set up assassination.'”
Joseph Rice, the Josephine County, Oregon, coordinator for the volunteer Oathkeepers.com organization and a leader with the Pacific Patriot Network, told WND many questions remain unanswered.
“How are ‘We the People’ to trust them the next time we interact with them?” he told WND.
“You’ve got agents willfully covering up the facts. That seems to claw at the integrity on the federal side of the investigation,” he said, calling for an independent review.
He explained that during the standoff he had spoken with both sides about how to resolve the disagreement and prevent a Waco or Ruby Ridge, two federal law-enforcement disasters that resulted in multiple deaths.
Rice pointed out that at least one of the individuals in the vehicle at the time of the shooting never was interviewed by investigators, who on Tuesday released details of their investigation.
He said the explanations fall short. Authorities, Rice said, claimed Finicum was shot three times in the back, yet he fell backward into the snow.
And he confirmed the family’s autopsy concluded Finicum was shot nine times.
Why, too, Rice asked, didn’t authorities simply arrange to arrest Finicum when he was meeting with the sheriff, whom he was going to see at the time?
“The FBI has a very structured escalation of force scale,” he explained. “I don’t see how any of the law enforcement followed it. … To employ that amount of lethality, I believe, is unwarranted, especially as he’s approaching the road block.”
He said an analysis of the video also shows snow “flicking up” around Finicum after he was shot and on the ground.
The Washington Post reported the Deschutes County sheriff’s office claimed the Oregon state troopers were justified in firing their six shots.
But Greg Bretzing of the FBI said the question of who, other than state troopers, fired shots “has not been resolved.”
“I’m demanding an investigation,” he said. “I’m demanding the attorney general send a task force into Oregon.”
And if the feds won’t, the United Nations ought to look into it, Savage said.
Finicum had served as a spokesman for the protesters occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns. The occupation was centered on a dispute with federal officials over land rights, sparked by what many saw as the unfair imposition of a five-year, U.S. Justice Department-pressed prison sentence for a local father and son, Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46.