LaVoy Finicum has reportedly been killed in a confrontation with police and FBI, who arrested the other leaders of the Oregon Occupation nearly a month after the armed group took over a federal wildlife reserve.
The confrontation took place Tuesday evening, with police also arresting the leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy. Six others were also arrested after a traffic stop in Harney County, where the occupation leaders were headed to a community meeting.
The occupation of a federal wildlife reserve had stretched on for several weeks after two local ranchers were sent to prison for setting fire to federal lands. While local police and federal officials had been slow to move in on the occupation, there were signs that the group was prepared to become violent. Last week Bundy had told KATU News that while the group did not have intentions on using the weapons they brought, “we have them, and we’re willing to stand with them in our own defense as we exercise our rights, and as we restore our rights back to our brothers and sisters.”
While the FBI had not yet released the name of the person killed, several sources identified him as Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who had been the public face of much of the Oregon Occupation.
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Finicum had previously given an ominous warning of what could happen if federal officials moved in to arrest the Oregon Occupation leaders. The 54-year-old told NBC News that they were prepared to be killed for their stand.
“Absolutely… I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box.”
“There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them,” he said. “I’m prepared to defend freedom.”
Finicum was a Mormon rancher from Arizona with 11 children. He had talked about a need to get back to his home, saying, “I got cows that are scattered and lost.”
LaVoy Finicum also claimed that he would be ready when FBI officials did move in.
“I do not want the FBI federal agents to have to go running around in the dark, kicking in doors looking for me, OK?” he told NBC News. “I want them to know exactly where I’m at.”
Finicum also issued a warning: “I’m telling them right now — don’t point guns at me,” he said.
LaVoy Finicum also stirred up controversy in the last week when he and other members of the occupation were seen going through Native American artifacts kept at the compound. Finicum called for members of the local tribe to meet with the occupation leaders to discuss the artifacts and whatever ownership claim the tribe might have to the land, but it was seen by many as an intrusion.
Finicum also told Oregon Public Broadcasting that social services officials in his home state had taken custody of the children he and his wife ware caring for.
“They were ripped from my wife. We are very successful (foster parents). Our track records are good, it’s been a good relationship. (Federal authorities) must have gotten to the governor, who told the state to get them out of there,” he said.
Finicum was one of the most public faces of the Oregon Occupation, posting regular updates to YouTube showing life inside the federal facility, including Sunday church services and video of the members removing federal cameras.
The death of LaVoy Finicum and arrest of the other leaders of the Oregon Occupation came on the 25th day of the group’s occupation of the wildlife refuge.
[Picture by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]