LaVoy Finicum: Family Of Fatally Shot Rancher Files $70 Million Lawsuit Against Feds, Police

Rick BowmerAP Images

The family of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an Arizona rancher shot and killed by police in Oregon in 2016, filed a massive $70 million federal wrongful death lawsuit on Friday. Finicum was involved in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, which was organized and led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy in early 2016. He was shot and killed by Oregon State Troopers as he attempted to flee the area.

As KTVZ 21 reports, LaVoy Finicum had a prominent position as the spokesperson for the armed militia members who took over and held the remote Malheur Refuge hostage for weeks. According to the occupation, which ultimately resulted in the deadly confrontation that cost Finicum his life, they were occupying the federal refuge to oppose the arrests of two ranchers, as well as federal control of much of the U.S. west. Prior to the Oregon standoff, the Bundy brothers were involved in a 2014 armed standoff against federal agents near their home in Nevada as part of their father, Cliven Bundy’s, dispute over cattle grazing rights. As Inquisitr previously reported, federal charges against the Bundy family members related to the 2014 standoff were dismissed with prejudice on January 8.

LaVoy Finicum was shot three times in the back and killed on January 26, 2016, after being stopped at a police roadblock in an attempt to flee from the Malheur Refuge occupation. According to official reports, Finicum had gotten out of his vehicle at the roadblock after participating in the armed occupation. Investigators claim that he initially raised his hands in the air before reaching toward a gun concealed in his jacket. It was then that law enforcement opened fire, ultimately hitting and killing LaVoy.

The government’s investigation into the death of LaVoy Finicum revealed that while the wildlife refuge occupier was shot and killed by state troopers, he was also shot at twice by FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita. The agent originally failed to disclose that he had fired his weapon at the roadblock and is now facing federal charges of obstructing justice and making false statements. He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, but is reportedly named as a defendant in the Finicum family’s federal lawsuit.

Based on witness statements and video captured at the scene of the shooting, the family and supporters of LaVoy Finicum have long disputed the official version of the events leading up to his shooting and death. In their Friday lawsuit, the family of the slain rancher alleged that he was “deliberately executed by a preplanned government ambush,” and it is no coincidence that the suit was filed on the second anniversary of Finicum’s death.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a Portland court, damages are being sought in the amount of $5 million each for LaVoy Finicum’s widow and the couple’s 12 children. In addition, the suit asks for an additional $5 million to be paid to the estate of LaVoy Finicum. On top of the $70 million in actual damages being sought, the Finicum family is also seeking “special and punitive damages” and to have their attorney’s fees paid. Listed as defendants in the suit are the United States of America, Oregon State Police, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the FBI, and others linked to the shooting death of the rancher.

Friday’s lawsuit claims that LaVoy Finicum was shot “assassination style” by Oregon State Police after stopping at a roadblock intended to stop him from crossing the county line into Grant County, where a sympathetic sheriff was waiting to meet with him to discuss the plight of the refuge occupiers. The Finicum family’s attorneys compared the rancher’s shooting to that of a North Korean defector in late 2017.

LaVoy Finicum was just one of several dozen “militia members” who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest from January 2 to February 11, 2016. Police and government authorities initially paid little heed to the armed occupation, allowing participants to enter and exit the facility at will for several weeks peacefully in an attempt to avoid bloodshed and violence. However, when Finicum and others attempted to attend a community meeting in the next county on January 26, police and federal authorities moved in to make arrests in an attempt to bring the volatile situation to an end.

It was then that LaVoy Finicum’s vehicle was pulled over. After stopping, Finicum yelled to authorities to “just shoot me” before driving away from the scene at a high rate of speed.

“Shoot me, just shoot me! Put the bullet through me.”

The armed rancher-turned-occupier didn’t make it far before he reached a police roadblock, which he allegedly attempted to evade by driving around it, resulting in him crashing into a snowbank. It was after that point that Finicum exited his vehicle and was ultimately shot by authorities. On March 8, 2016, an investigation into the death of LaVoy Finicum determined that the Oregon State Troopers involved in his shooting were justified in their actions that day.

At this point, neither the FBI, the governor’s office, or Oregon State Police have responded to media requests for comment regarding today’s lawsuit filing.