FBI Releases Video Showing Fatal Shooting of Oregon Protester

The FBI released video Thursday that shows law enforcement during a traffic stop this week fatally shooting one of the armed men who occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge.
by | January 29, 2016 AT 12:01 PM

By William Yardley and Matt Pearce

The FBI released video Thursday that shows law enforcement during a traffic stop this week fatally shooting one of the armed men who occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge.

In the video, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, 55, drives a white truck into a snowdrift, nearly striking a law enforcement officer. He gets out of the vehicle and can be seen lifting his hands in the air and then lowering them toward his body before at least one Oregon State Police officer shoots him.

Finicum had a loaded 9-millimeter handgun in his pocket, an FBI official said.

The encounter took place Tuesday on a highway several dozen miles from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The video was taken from an aircraft. It's not clear exactly when Finicum died.

Until now, officials had given no information about the fatal shooting as law enforcement officers stopped and arrested several protesters who had occupied the refuge in Oregon's high desert near Burns.

The FBI's account of the shooting at a news conference in Oregon on Thursday comes after unverified claims from two witnesses said Finicum sped away from law enforcement before he got out of his vehicle and was shot.

Four people are still thought to be occupying the refuge.

A series of arrests and desertions this week have nearly dissolved the occupation that began Jan. 2, when several armed men and women invaded the compound to protest the federal government's management of public lands and its prosecution of two local ranchers.

At least 11 occupiers face federal charges of conspiracy to stop federal officials from doing their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats, in large part citing evidence taken from media accounts and sympathizers' live-streaming from the site.

For a while, it was an open occupation, as supplies and people flowed into the camp freely, and occupiers caravaned out to local towns to share their message with residents.

But by Thursday, it was clear that whoever left the refuge would not come back.

Gone was Ammon Bundy, 40, a protest leader among those arrested and now facing a federal intimidation charge, who pleaded through an attorney Wednesday for his fellow occupiers to stand down and go home to their families.

Gone was the man who seemed to be next in command, Jason S. Patrick, 43, who heeded Bundy's call and hiked out of the refuge Wednesday night and straight into federal custody.

On Thursday, the remaining occupiers' concerns were whether any of them would be arrested and charged when they met the police blockades outside the refuge, and where they would have to surrender their weapons and submit to identification.

Some protesters had been allowed to leave freely. Others have been arrested and charged.

Some protesters expressed their concerns Thursday via video live streamed from inside the refuge.

"We want to live," Sean Anderson, 47, one of the protesters said, addressing a camera operated by a fellow protester. "We want to go home peacefully, safely."

Anderson, who was there with his wife, Sandy, added, "We don't need felony charges. We're camping out here. Who are we hurting? Who are we threatening?"

One clear threat had been issued a day earlier when a man resembling Anderson had yelled to viewers of the video stream to come to the refuge, adding, "If they stop you from getting here, kill them!"

On Thursday, one right-wing Oregon militia leader who has been monitoring the protest, B.J. Soper, expressed frustration with Patrick's arrest and Finicum's death, and he issued a call for fellow sympathizers to descend on the town of Burns, asking on Facebook for "not hundreds, but thousands to come here."

Alluding to the protests of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, Soper wrote, "If MLK and Ms. Parks did not stand up for their believes, civil rights would not be as they are today. If we hope to change this overbearing and overreaching government, we have to stand up and take its power away. AT ALL LEVELS."

Many people in Burns expressed relief that the standoff appeared to be ending, though many also said they were sad someone was killed in the process, and some feared re-escalation.

"These guys got exactly what they wanted down there _ they got their 15 minutes of fame and more," said Ralph Dickinson, 80, while shopping at Safeway on Thursday. "I don't want to see anyone else killed. That should never have happened."

Dickinson, who said his family has lived in the area since the late 19th century, noted the occupation ostensibly began as a protest of the prison sentences of two people he knows, Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers found guilty of setting fires that spread to federal land.

But he said the Hammond sentences instead seemed to be "an excuse" the occupiers used to make a range of complaints about federal land policies.

"They had to know that they weren't going to have a good ending," Dickinson said of the armed occupiers. "That little group of guys was not going to overturn the courts."

He noted the area's isolation and said he looked forward to residents returning to life without the protesters, federal officers and constant media attention.

"We're pretty good at getting along around here," he said. "When we disagree on something, we discuss it and move on."

Local resident Dayle Robertson, 75, said what many others here have said _ that he disagreed with the methods of the armed occupiers but had sympathy for some of their broad arguments about federal control of land in the West.

(Yardley reported from Burns and Pearce from Los Angeles.)

(c)2016 Los Angeles Times