Hands up or charging? Conflicting reports on shooting of Oregon militia spokesman
Conflicting information is emerging over what happened after a well-known member of the militia group occupying a nature preserve in Oregon died in a shootout with federal agents. The group’s spokesman had tried to run a roadblock before he was killed.
Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum, a member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since January 2, died Tuesday evening after a confrontation with federal law enforcement at a roadblock north of Burns, Oregon.
According to Victoria Sharps, a young woman who was in Finicum’s truck, the rancher had his hands in the air when he was shot.
“He was just walking, with his hands in the air, and they shot him dead,” Sharps said, adding, “His hands were still up after he was dead.”
Finicum was shot at least six times, and three more times after he fell, she said, in an account posted on Youtube and shared by the Bundy Ranch Facebook page.
Mark McConnell, the driver of the second vehicle in the militia convoy, described claims that Finicum was gunned down as “nonsense.”
“He was not on his knees. None of that nonsense,” McConnell said in a video posted on Facebook early on Wednesday.
After the two vehicles were stopped, Finicum “took off” towards another roadblock, about a mile down the road, where he stalled in a snow bank, according to McConnell. While the federal agents were detaining militia leader Ammon Bundy and his bodyguard, Brian ‘Buddha’ Cavalier, Finicum got out of his truck and “charged” the roadblock.
“He went after them. He charged them,” McConnell said, citing the account of events given by Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne, both passengers in Finicum’s truck. It is unclear how he heard the accounts, however, since both Payne and Cox were detained by the authorities, while McConnell was let go.
His account could not be confirmed, but “several details matched accounts from law enforcement sources,” according to the Oregonian.
In a statement about the incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not name Finicum, saying only that “one individual who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased."
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, federal and local law enforcement officials blamed the occupiers for the incident.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing blamed the “actions and choices of the armed occupiers” for the current situation, adding that law enforcement demonstrated on Tuesday that “actions are not without consequences.”
“We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad,” said Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward. The authorities were prepared to wait the militia out, but their presence and agitation was “tearing our community apart,” he added.
If Americans have issues with the government, “we don’t arm up and rebel. We work through the appropriate channels,” Ward concluded.
The eight members of the militia arrested Tuesday will be charged with “conspiracy to impede officers of the US from discharging official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats,” according to Bill Williams, US attorney for the District of Oregon.