Oregon Authorities Justify Shooting Of Militant At Wildlife Refuge

Mar 8, 2016
Originally published on March 9, 2016 5:35 am
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Authorities in Oregon say the fatal police shooting of Robert LaVoy Finicum was justified. Finicum was one of the people who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year. And the Justice Department also says it's launched an internal investigation into possible misconduct by FBI agents at the scene. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: LaVoy Finicum's death has been called a cold-blooded murder by many sympathizers. On social media and at rallies around the West, they've tried to make Finicum a martyr for their anti-federal government causes. Well, today in Oregon, prosecutors, for a second time, released video footage from the dramatic scene at the police roadblock in the snowy mountains on January 26. This recording comes from one of the militants in Finicum's pickup, Shawna Cox, as state troopers drew their weapons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAVOY FINICUM: You back down, or you kill me now. Go ahead. Put the bullet through me.

SIEGLER: Authorities from two Oregon counties leading the investigation say a total of eight shots were fired at Finnicum, six from state police but not hundreds as his supporters claim on social media. The authorities say Finicum had a loaded 9 millimeter handgun inside his jacket and used his truck, driving at 70 miles per hour at one point toward the roadblock, as a deadly weapon. The FBI's special agent in charge, Greg Bretzing, called the use of force justified.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG BRETZING: Mr. Finicum chose to break the law. Mr. Finicum chose to put other people's lives in danger, and as the investigation shows, he chose to provoke a confrontation with law enforcement.

SIEGLER: The investigation also revealed an FBI agent fired two shots at Finicum as he got out of his truck. That's new information and has prompted the agency's independent inspector general to investigate possible misconduct. This could fuel even more suspicion from Finicum's family and his self-styled militia supporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEANETTE FINICUM: I don't want the FBI lies. I don't want their version of the truth because they don't know what truth is.

(APPLAUSE, CHEERING)

SIEGLER: At a rally this past weekend in Salt Lake City, LaVoy Finicum's wife, Jeanette, demanded an independent investigation, and activists said they wanted to see body cam footage and Finicum's pickup. Kirk Siegler, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.