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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

FBI Video Shows|Militiaman’s Death

(CN) - Police released an aerial video that contradicts conservative accounts of the killing of LaVoy Finicum, the man Oregon State Police gunned down while arresting Ammon Bundy and his cohorts Tuesday night.

The announcement confirmed reports from multiple sources, including Ammon Bundy, that Finicum was the one killed during the arrests.

Finicum, 54, was an Arizona rancher who had met Bundy during the 2014 standoff between Bundy's father, Cliven Bundy, and the federal government. Cliven Bundy still owes over $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on public land.

The video shows police stopping a two-car caravan of militants as they drove through a snowy pine forest to a community meeting in John Day, Ore, 24 days after they took over federal buildings in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In the video, one of the cars, a Jeep, pulled quickly to the side of the road. Police said arrested the occupants of that car: Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier. They did not arrest the driver and declined to name that person.

Meanwhile, Finicum, who was leading the caravan in a white truck, stopped in the middle of the road. Ryan Payne crawled out the back of the truck and walked toward police with his hands up before being arrested.

But the truck kept idling on the pavement. With Finicum were Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox and another woman who the FBI did not name, because she was not arrested.

Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, narrated the video at a press conference Thursday night.

"We can't comment on what may have been going on in the truck at this time, but those details may come out later as part of the overall shooting investigation," Bretzing said.

After nearly four minutes, Finicum took off. He sped through the forest for almost a full minute before reaching the next roadblock.

Finicum swerved into the snowbank, in an apparent attempt to drive around the roadblock and the spike strip police had spread across the road.

But the truck got stuck in the deep snow. Finicum leapt from the driver's side door and hopped though the deep drifts. Three Oregon State Police officers were within 10 feet of him. At first, he waved his arms above his head. Then he reached into his left inside jacket pocket, where police said he had a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.

Finicum dropped to the ground as police shot him, 12 seconds after jumping out of the truck.

Police then used flash bangs and "sponge projectiles" with capsules containing a chemical they said was similar to pepper spray before removing Ryan Bundy, Cox and the third woman from the truck.

Bretzing said it took police 10 minutes to secure the scene before they could offer medical care to Finicum.

Bretzing said police released the video to counter "inflammatory" versions of the story of Finicum's death. Conservative commentators had claimed that Finicum was on his knees with his hands in the air when police shot him.

Bretzing also said that four militants are still holed up in the refuge. The FBI established a perimeter around the standoff on Tuesday, after arresting the Bundy brothers and five others in the traffic stop that ended with Finicum dead. Since then, nine more people have left the refuge, the FBI said. Police arrested three of those and let the other six go.

Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan said he handed the investigation over to Malheur County District Attorney, Dan Norris.

"In the interest of transparency and to prevent any perceived conflict of interest, it is appropriate to have a district attorney with no prior involvement review the investigation," Colahan said. "I have requested Malheur County District Attorney, Dan Norris review the investigation and make a decision regarding the appropriate use of deadly physical force."

Oregon State Police policy allows the use of deadly force "only when the officer reasonably believes the use of such force is necessary to: Defend the officer or another person from what the officer reasonably believes to be the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury," according to the policy manual.

Ammon Bundy's lawyer read a statement from Bundy memorializing Finicum on the steps of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland on Wednesday.

"I want to address my beloved friend, LeVoy Finicum," Bundy said. "Levoy is one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I've ever seen. His love for this country ran deep through the blood he gave yesterday."

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