LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed on January 26 when he attempted to avoid arrest on highway US 395 in southeastern Oregon. Some believe that the FBI agents attempting to take him into custody shot him without provocation. One of those people, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, has publicly accused the FBI of murder, calling Finicum’s death an assassination.
In a videotaped interview with St. George (Utah) News, a free-access online newspaper, posted January 30, Cliven Bundy, who is the father of two of the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, spoke of his friend, LaVoy Finicum, whom he believed was killed by federal officers intentionally. “Those people are murderers, ” he said. Noting how federal authorities had the locals “scared,” Bundy added, “They proved how powerful he was when they assassinated LaVoy Finicum.”
Bundy, who led a successful standoff at his Nevada ranch in 2014, was referring to Finicum’s role as a spokesman in the standoff at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge, where he had become a familiar face, along with Jon Ritzheimer and Ammon Bundy. The latter and his brother, Ryan Bundy, were arrested Tuesday along with five others during the incident that ended in Finicum’s death. A video released by the FBI on Thursday showed Finicum, after fleeing in a white truck away from the initial arrest location, emerging from the truck with his hands in the air. He then lowered his arms, raised them again, then dropped them one more time. He then appeared to be turned sideways and fell onto his back, apparently shot by one or both of the men pointing weapons at him. Although Finicum would die at the scene, what actually occurred has been hotly debated due to a lack of official details.
The official stance is that Finicum had lowered his hands and had reached toward a jacket pocket. Shots were fired, but authorities have not stated who shot first or if the deceased actually fired a weapon at all. The FBI, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said that Finicum had a loaded 9 mm handgun in his pocket.
But Cliven Bundy does not believe it. He told the St. George News that what he saw in the video was LaVoy Finicum being shot multiple times after it looked as if he stumbled in the snow.
Two days prior to the release of the FBI shooting video and following the arrest of his sons, Bundy told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that he had heard from Ammon Bundy’s wife, Briana. According to him, she relayed the news that Finicum had been killed in cold blood.
“She said they cold-blooded shot him. They shot him; she figures, at least, six times. Three or four of the times was after he was on the ground dead, and the man comes up and shoot him,” Cliven said. “What kind of man do that? What kind of human beings do that? They got a man down, and they walk up and shoot him three or four times. That’s the kind of people we’re tired of dealing with.”
It is clear that the hysterics of the uncertain period following the arrests and the Finicum shooting on Tuesday had given way to a more reasoned observation by the time Bundy talked with the St. George News. But the initial assessment of murder remains, given a more sinister connotation with the label “assassination.”
A written statement by Cliven Bundy was also printed in the Review-Journal January 30: “LaVoy Finicum was assassinated by wicked and evil men representing our US government. These men in local, state, and US government feared the truths that LaVoy Finicum was standing for and teaching to his fellowmen.”
LaVoy Finicum, the Bundy brothers, and several dozen armed men took over federal buildings of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon on January 2. They claimed the lands in the name of the people, demanding the federal government return the federal parklands to area’s locals. The group were part of a rally that had convened to protest the incarceration of two Oregon ranchers, who, the protesters claimed, were being illegally and unfairly prosecuted by the government. Those ranchers had been convicted of arson for intentionally setting fire to federal lands.
Only four of the so-called Oregon militia remain at the Refuge, surrounded by federal agents. Nine of eleven of the occupiers, including the Bundy brothers, are in custody (two were released by judge’s order Friday) and, according to a judge’s ruling Thursday, will remain so until everyone is off federal land. Ammon Bundy has requested, via his attorney, that the last occupiers stand down and leave.