Rancher and occupier LaVoy Finicum was shot by law enforcement as the stand-off at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge wound to a close early this year, but the investigation into the officer-involved shooting is still underway. In testimony released today, the elite national team of FBI field agents may have misled investigators about the number of shots they fired when LaVoy Finicum, 54, reached for a firearm after being stopped by police.
Finicum was killed by an Oregon State Trooper, who fired at the armed occupier when he leapt from his truck and reached for a gun under his coat, but FBI and other law enforcement officers on the scene also fired at Finicum, though only the Oregon State Trooper hit their mark.
Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum: Oregon occupier's killing (shot 3x in the back by FBI) justified, officials say— Mountaineer (@TehachapiHomes) March 8, 2016
Today, a prosecutor stated the officers were legally justified in shooting Finicum, but the FBI may not have been honest about the number of shots their agents fired during the tense stand-off. For reasons that remain unclear, the FBI agents who fired at Finicum misreported the number of times they fired their weapons, failing to account for two shots which investigators linked conclusively to the weapons used by the FBI agents on the scene.
“The question of who fired these shots has not been resolved,” said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Portland.
The shots in question were fired at LaVoy Finicum during the stand-off, after the rancher crashed his truck into a snowbank during a police pursuit. Finicum reportedly taunted police before leaping out of the vehicle and raising his hands over his head. Police and FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team closed in on Finicum, who then reached for his waistband after shouting “just shoot me.”
LaVoy Finicum was killed when one of the shots pierced his heart, but he was struck three times, reports the Washington Post. All three bullets were fired by an Oregon State Trooper, and the shots fired by FBI agents struck a nearby vehicle but did not hit any of the occupiers. Why the FBI agents in question failed to report these shots is unknown, though supporters of Finicum and the occupation are already attributing the negligence to criminal wrongdoing – proof that Finicum was “executed in cold blood,” as his supporters first claimed.
Finicum was killed during the same law enforcement action that saw the leaders of the Malheur occupation arrested, including Ammon Bundy, who remains in federal custody. When the police pulled over a convoy of occupiers leaving the refuge, Bundy and the others surrendered while Finicum took off at high speed, eventually plowing into a snowbank near a police roadblock and nearly striking several officers with his vehicle.
The tense car chase and subsequent shooting was caught on video by a surveillance helicopter, and released shortly after Finicum’s death, an unusual move for the FBI, but as soon as the shooting hit the news, supporters of the Malheur occupiers were crying foul, stating that Finicum was “executed” and “unarmed.” The FBI released the video, which illustrates conclusively that he was reaching for a weapon and was not fired upon until after he did so, as a counter to the narrative put forth by the Malheur occupiers.
Finicum’s death, and the video released by the FBI, only served to galvanize the opposition to the law enforcement action, with supporters of the illegal occupation holding rallies and protests of the perceived police brutality. Finicum’s supporters and family maintain that the shooting was an ‘execution’ and in a statement today the Finicum family expressed support for a private, independent investigation of the shooting.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]