LaVoy Finicum

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Robert LaVoy Finicum
File:LaVoyFinicum.jpg
Born (1961-01-27)January 27, 1961
Kanab, Utah,[1] United States
Died January 26, 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 54)
Harney County, Oregon, United States
Cause of death Gunshot wounds
Occupation Activist, cattle rancher
Spouse(s) Jeanette Finicum[2]
Children 11[3]

Robert LaVoy Finicum (January 27, 1961 – January 26, 2016)[4] was an American militant, author, and cattle rancher involved in the 2014 Bundy standoff and the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was shot and killed while attempting to evade a roadblock while traveling outside of the refuge.

Background

Finicum operated a cattle ranch and foster home in Arizona.[5] He filed for bankruptcy in 2002.[6]

The Finicums were foster parents to numerous children, who were all removed from their care due to his involvement in the standoff. Finicum stated that this took away his and his wife's main source of income. That represented an enormous loss of income for the Finicums. According to a 2010 tax filing, Catholic Charities Community Services in Arizona paid the family US$115,343 to foster children in 2009.[7]

About a year after joining the Bundy standoff, Finicum ceased complying with the terms of his grazing agreement with the BLM. He would eventually accrue more than $12,000 in fees and fines.[8]

2016 militant occupation

File:LaVoy Finicum speaking about Malheur Occupation.webm
Finicum speaking on January 22, 2016

Finicum was a frequently interviewed personality during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by the newly-formed Citizens for Constitutional Freedom group, informally acting as one of their spokesmen and leading a tour of the refuge.[6] He was dubbed "Tarp Man" by MSNBC for sitting outside at night in a rocking chair, covered completely in a blue tarp and holding a rifle concealed underneath.[9]

When asked if he would rather be killed than arrested if the occupation turned violent, Finicum replied, "Absolutely ... I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box."[10]

Death during occupation

One-minute excerpt from 26-minute FBI aerial footage of Finicum's death.[11]

On January 26, Finicum was driving a white 2015 Dodge Ram pickup truck,[12][13] one of two vehicles containing several militants who were all headed for nearby Grant County, Oregon; Ryan Payne, a main leader of the occupation, was scheduled to speak at a public meeting there.[14][15][16] Both vehicles encountered a traffic stop set up by state and federal authorities on a stretch of U.S. Route 395, situated away from populated areas.[17]

At the traffic stop, the second car stopped, and its occupants of one of the cars surrendered peacefully and were taken into custody. Finicum kept driving the pickup truck, but eventually stopped as well. The police launched a round of 40mm foam-nosed pepper spray at the vehicle.[18] One of Finicum's passengers surrendered peacefully and was arrested. Two other passengers recorded cellphone video of Finicum shouting to police that he will ignore their orders and drive away, and also taunting them and suggesting that they should shoot and kill him. Eventually, after sitting still for almost seven minutes, Finicum drove away at high speed.[13][19][20][21][22] The vehicle was subsequently pursued by officers and eventually encountered a roadblock about 1 mile (1,609 m) later. During an attempt to bypass the roadblock, the truck became embedded in a roadside snowbank.[23] Two Oregon State Police (OSP) officers and four agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were posted at the roadblock, with one of the FBI agents nearly being run over by Finicum's truck.[12]

Finicum immediately walked away from his truck and briefly held his hands above his head. OSP officers and FBI agents armed with rifles positioned themselves to his left, while an OSP officer equipped with a Taser X2 walked toward him from his right. As the officer with the Taser attempted to move within 15 feet (5 m) to make the most effective use of the Taser, Finicum turned his body to the left, holding his jacket with his left hand and reaching for a pocket with his right hand. He was then shot three times in the back by two OSP officers.[18][24] Medical assistance was given to Finicum approximately 10 minutes after the shooting.[25]

OSP officers fired three shots into Finicum's truck as it approached the roadblock, and fired three shots into Finicum.[26] While Finicum was leaving his truck, an FBI Hostage Rescue Team operator fired two shots, one of which entered the truck and rebounded, inflicting a minor shrapnel wound on one of the passengers.[27]

Aftermath of death

Investigation

After Finicum's death, officials stated that he was reaching for a gun in his pocket when he was shot by a state trooper.[17] The FBI also said that a loaded handgun was found in Finicum's pocket.[28] It was later identified as a 9mm Ruger SR9 handgun.[29] Finicum received the handgun as a gift from his stepson.[29][30] His public autopsy was performed on January 28, but officials withheld the autopsy report from the press until March 8.[31][32]

Investigators with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, assigned to process the scene of Finicum's shooting, were accounting for the two known sets of shots fired by the OSP officers during the event (the shots that killed Finicum, and the earlier shots that struck his vehicle) when they discovered a bullet that struck the roof of the truck at a different trajectory. After ascertaining the bullet's existence with cell phone video taken by one of Finicum's passengers, investigators modeled the bullet's trajectory using computers, and determined that the bullet was fired from the direction where two FBI agents were standing. They later determined that a FBI Hostage Rescue Team member fired twice at Finicum, missing and injuring a second militant in the process. The agent, whose identity was withheld, was under investigation, along with four other FBI agents who were suspected of attempting to conceal evidence of the gunshots. They reportedly told investigators that none of them fired a shot during the incident.[33][34]

During initial processing of the scene, the rifle cartridge casings purportedly fired by the FBI agent were reported not present. However, an OSP officer later described seeing two casings at the scene near where the FBI agents were positioned. FBI aerial surveillance video shows agents searching the area, then huddling together before breaking up moments later, with one agent bending over twice to pick up an unknown object. Law enforcement officials began the investigation into the gunshots after watching the full surveillance video and suspecting something was amiss. Two FBI pickup trucks were searched for casings, but none were found, while at least three OSP officers were interrogated about their initial processing of the scene.[12]

On March 8, officials revealed their findings to the public.[27] The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the conduct of the agents.[33] Deschutes County Sheriff's Office investigators, along with the district attorneys of Malheur and Harney Counties, declared that Finicum's shooting death was "justified and necessary".[35]

On April 5, cellphone video footage shot by another of Finicum's passengers was released by authorities.[35]

Reactions

Prior to the video of the action being released, some of the militants and supporters had claimed that Finicum was cooperating with the police when he was shot. This included a claim by Nevada legislator Michele Fiore (who was not present at the arrest) that "he was just murdered with his hands up."[36] Cliven Bundy was quoted as saying that Finicum was "sacrificed for a good purpose".[37] In a March 3 interview in prison, Ammon Bundy called the shooting "egregious" and said that the officers involved "should be ashamed of it".[38]

At a news conference, officials had initially declined to comment on the Finicum shooting because the encounter was still under investigation,[39] but they later released surveillance video of the incident, which officials said shows Finicum reaching for a handgun after feigning surrender.[40][41] However, Finicum's family continued to dispute the nature of the shooting, claiming that he was shot in the back while his hands were in the air, and denied the FBI's assertion that Finicum was armed at the time of his death.[42] The Finicum family commissioned a private autopsy, but declined to make the results public.[43]

The Oregon State Police received death threats.[44] On February 6, more than 1,000 supporters attended Finicum's funeral in Kanab, Utah, while others rebuilt a razed memorial on U.S. Route 395.[45] About another 100 people led by the 3 Percenters rallied at the Idaho State Capitol in the afternoon in honor of Finicum, who they believed was unarmed at the time of his death.[46] On March 4, a small group of about a dozen armed protesters surrounded a federal courthouse in Tucson, demanding the state troopers who shot Finicum to be indicted and fired; Finicum was from Arizona.[47] Another rally, led by Finicum's wife Jeanette, was held at the Utah State Capitol on March 5. 200–300 people were in attendance.[2] Several dozen rallies were held at various locations throughout the country the following Saturday.[48]

On May 12, more than a dozen Arizona politicians wrote a letter to Oregon Governor Kate Brown, in which they asked her to conduct another, more transparent investigation into Finicum's death.[49]

Personal life

Finicum had a wife, Jeanette, and a total of eleven children.[2][3]

Works

Finicum published a single novel, Only by Blood and Suffering: Regaining Lost Freedom, in 2015.[50]

References

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  3. 3.0 3.1 Yan, Holly; Kravarik, Jason (January 27, 2016). "LaVoy Finicum: Father of 11 who was killed in Oregon said he was willing to die". CNN. Retrieved March 6, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Robert Lavoy Finicum". Find a Grave. Retrieved March 8, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  49. Foden-Vencil, Kristian (May 12, 2016). "Arizona Politicians Call On Oregon Governor To Investigate LaVoy Finicum Death". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved May 18, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. Finicum, LaVoy (July 4, 2015). Only By Blood and Suffering. Digital Legend. ISBN 978-1937735944. Retrieved March 6, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links