By John Friend —
Oregon State Police officers have been exonerated in the shooting death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the iconic Arizona rancher who served as a leading spokesman for the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that took place earlier this year in southeastern Oregon, an event AMERICAN FREE PRESS has covered extensively in recent issues.
Finicum, a close friend of the Bundy ranching family who were also heavily involved with the Oregon standoff, was shot and killed on January 26 after being stopped by Oregon State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials.
According to the results of the investigation carried out by Oregon officials, Oregon State Police were justified in using lethal action against Finicum. However, an FBI agent is suspected of firing shots at Finicum and then lying about it in the aftermath. Other FBI officials are alleged to have assisted in the cover-up of the incident, and the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the shooting and subsequent cover-up.
Oregon State Police officials released a synchronized video including aerial footage of Finicum’s death originally captured and published online by the FBI combined with video and audio footage captured by Shawna Cox, who was in the vehicle with Finicum during the standoff with law enforcement officials. In the video, Finicum informs Oregon State Police officers and others present that he intends to meet with the sheriff of Grant County, where he and his entourage were traveling that fateful day, and that law enforcement officials are welcome to join him. Finicum makes clear that he is not surrendering to the Oregon State Police or FBI officials, and that they have the option of either shooting him or letting him continue to his destination.
Watch the entire video below:
Finicum’s family strongly disputes the narrative being articulated by officials from the State of Oregon.
“Our family asserts that he was shot with both hands up,” Jeanette Finicum, LaVoy’s wife, stated shortly after the results of the official investigation were released. “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.”
What follows is the official Finicum family statement released on March 9, 2016.
EMBARGOED UNTIL 11:30 AM MST, Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Contact: Cherilyn Bacon Eagar for the LaVoy Finicum family
JEANETTE FINICUM STATEMENT—AFTER REVIEW OF YESTERDAY’S OREGON INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
Mrs. Finicum will take initial questions for the first time today from media in an 11:30 AM MST news conference at the Washington County Building 197 E. Tabernacle Street St. George, Utah related specifically to the civil and criminal lawsuits she and her legal team are pursuing.
March 9, 2016, St. George, UT—Yesterday a tag-team of law enforcement officials announced they have found that the Oregon officer who shot my husband dead while he had his hands in the air was justified. These officials announced that “without a doubt” the officer who killed my husband did so “to protect” himself and his fellow officers “from imminent harm.”
I know my husband, Robert LaVoy Finicum, and I knew him on the day he died. With his hands in the air, he was no danger to anyone, he intended no “imminent harm.” He was giving himself up in order to divert shooters from the others in the truck. Right down to the very last act of his life, he was giving for others. That was my husband. That was the man who the panel of investigators concluded was “responsible for” the situation in which he was killed in a well-planned ambush.
My family and I reject the biased, whitewash findings and conclusion reported yesterday. My lawyers have assured me that the men who ambushed my husband, who set him up for death, who assassinated him, will face justice in a court before an unbiased jury that will be deciding whether my husband was killed by a wrongful action or omission on the part of the police. That action will be joined with an action based on violation of the due process clause of the United States Constitution, the very document for which my husband gave his life. That is a Civil Rights Act claim.
Prior to yesterday the FBI held the position that my husband was shot during a “traffic stop.” That was such a stretch of the truth that even the tag-team news conference group could not repeat it. There was no “traffic stop.” This was an ambush by use of a “Deadman’s Blockade” designed to allow a “Kill Stop”—a roadblock on a blind curve on an almost abandoned road.
Those officers at the roadblock were the last line available to block the truck LaVoy drove, to assure that he was killed. In our wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit we will prove the kind of man my husband was, and that as a leading spokesman of this movement to restore the U.S. Constitution and our unalienable rights, he had to be made an example: “Don’t interfere if we as law officers are depriving someone of their rights, property and person.” Is this what Americans believe? Or is this the kind of fear tactic despots in the Middle East have used for centuries when they place crucifixes along the highway to strike fear into their slaves—don’t you dare oppose our unjust laws or this is what will happen to you!”
I don’t think so. Not in America. I still believe we are governed by the same Constitution that our founders created and that we are a republic, one nation under God.
Yesterday, as before, the officers set up a false scenario that my husband was reaching for a loaded gun as he was shot. Before yesterday’s selectively edited video showing, we saw the uncut version. In that uncut version, we see my husband with his hands up, walking away from the truck and not reaching for anything when a man to the right of the video obviously fired some projectile at him. Immediately he leaned over to his left hip area where it appeared some projectile hit him. At that one moment, shots were reigned down on him and he died there in the snow bank—where he lay for ten minutes without anyone checking to see whether he was alive. They let him lay there because they knew that the three shots into the back had killed him.
My attorneys have already begun to assemble a trial team of investigators, paralegals, videographers and writers to make sure that the man who shot my husband in the back and all those who were accomplices will face justice. They will soon be filing the Oregon 30.275 notice that precedes a lawsuit for wrongful death and civil rights violations.
At least twice yesterday the officials blamed my husband for being solely responsible for what happened at the site where he was ambushed. Again, my attorneys assure me that we can show differently, even with yesterday’s law enforcement whitewash. This tag-team said that the officers on the scene where the killing took place were there, putting themselves in harm’s way as part of an effort to “bring the situation at the refuge to an end peacefully.” This statement is consistent with the goal law enforcement announced from the beginning in this case: Let’s just get them out of the refuge building peacefully to the outside where we can talk.
If they had been telling the truth, on January 26, they could easily have achieved their goal. They knew from an informant inside the refuge that all but four of the people inside the refuge would be leaving for several hours. That included the long trip to John Day, the meeting with Sheriff Glenn Palmer, and the ranchers’ workshop that evening on the original intent of the Constitution.
So, I ask, why didn’t the officers pull the roadblock and let the group go out peacefully to John Day? Why didn’t they choose to arrest him while at the Sheriff’s office? If they had done that, this case would have been put in the books with the peaceful ending they now claim they wanted. In fact, the Harney County Sheriff had every opportunity during their stay at the Malheur Refuge to make a peaceful arrest during the numerous conversations they had with him in Burns. My lawyers believe we can show that was not their goal because there is no better evidence of their intent than their actions.
So when the officials said yesterday that my husband was “solely responsible” for the situation and happening of his death, they were spreading their whitewash with a very broad brush. Yesterday one of the tag-team said that my husband chose to break the law, chose to put himself and other people in danger, and then chose to enter into a face-to-face confrontation with armed police officers. My lawyers have already discussed with me how the facts will show that the officers intended to shoot LaVoy, how an informant arranged for him to be in the lead truck, how the officers started shooting at the truck to force it to stop, and then finally how my husband gave himself up in order to draw attention away from the others in the truck.
Contrary to what the panel of officials “found,” my husband was not responsible for the situation that ended with his death. He is not the one who blockaded the road with a “deadman’s blockade.” He is not the one responsible for officers armed with long guns firing from behind the trees. He is not the one who chose to block himself and his friends from leaving the refuge to go out to John Day. He is not the one who lined armed personnel all along the roadway from the refuge to the blockade. No, all those actions can be laid at the feet of the officials who spoke of their innocence yesterday. They will not have to explain their actions in a preliminary hearing or at trial, because their actions were glossed over—“law officers will take care of their own” I was told. But I still had faith in the system my husband fought to protect. I was wrong.
We had no chance at justice in this investigation of law enforcement officers by other law enforcement officers, more like the fox guarding the hen house. But in a wrongful death action, coupled with a civil rights action, the shooters and their partners will make sure that the officers involved will face the same kind of music enjoyed yesterday at our expense.
Yesterday the panel said that “the troopers knew that Mr. Finicum carried a weapon on his left side. Mr. Finicum was reaching for that loaded 9mm gun when the troopers lawfully used deadly force to protect themselves and others including the trooper armed with a Taser.” You all have seen the full video where it shows the trooper with the gun or taser to the right of the screen as you look toward the screen. You see my husband lean over to his left hip area immediately where he grabs for the place he was hit. The gunman turns his back on my husband and runs. Isn’t it strange that a law officer turns his back on a person he believes to be heavily armed? Not so strange if he knows that his partner intends to shoot that person in the back.
We believe they will have a hard time squaring their actions with the Attorney General’s statements when we next get into court. My attorneys tell me that we will have to get past the motion to dismiss the civil rights action, which is a motion often governed by intangibles such as, “Does the action of the state shock the conscience?” The media have called my husband a lot of names that are foreign to the peaceful man and extraordinary father of our children that I knew. We must now ask the question, “Who are the real domestic terrorists here?”
We believe that this “Kill Stop” staged by government agents was barbaric, that their whitewash of this horrific incident is more worthy of an Academy Award-winning film in the fiction category and that unbiased American citizens will have their conscience shocked by the government agents’ conduct in:
• Arranging for imbedding an informant among those in the house, on the basis of the informant’s information they set up a Deadman’s Blockade and an intentional killing;
• They shot at the truck in an effort to prevent it from leaving peacefully;
• They shot at the truck after it came to a halt;
• Then they shot my husband, the father of our eleven children, as he moved away from the truck with both hands in the air;
• At the time he was seen to reach down and bend down to his left as though he had been shot or hit with a bullet or taser ray;
• As he bent down, and then tried to straighten back up he was shot three times in the back and died.
I believe, my family believes, my lawyers believe that this evidence will “shock the conscience.”
John Friend is a California-based writer who maintains a blog.