By Claire Withycombe

The Bulletin

… LaVoy Finicum yells to his passengers as he approaches a roadblock set up by Oregon State Police and the FBI between Burns and John Day. In the vehicle are Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox and Victoria Sharp.

This is what was said:

Finicum: “Go ahead and shoot me.”

Officers: “Get on the ground.”

Finicum: “Go ahead and shoot me.”

Officers: “Get on the ground.”

Finicum: “Go ahead and shoot me.”

Officers: “Get on the ground.”

Cox: “Stay down. Stay down. Stay down. Stay down. Stay down.”

Finicum: “You’re gonna have to shoot me. You’re gonna have to shoot me.”

Officers: “Get on the ground.”

Cox: “Are they shootin’ him? Did they shoot him? You a-------.”

Sharp: “Oh my God!”

Oregon State Police troopers were legally justified in shooting a Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier during a confrontation on a rural highway Jan. 26, investigators said Tuesday.

The findings came at the conclusion of an investigation by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, which was tapped to lead the shooting investigation as part of a regional interagency major incident team.

However, federal authorities have started their own investigation to determine whether FBI agents fired two additional shots at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s truck that could not be accounted for, they said.

And Finicum’s wife criticized the state investigation, calling her husband’s death an ambush.

Finicum, 55, of Freedonia, Arizona, died soon after he was shot three times by two state troopers on the side of U.S. Highway 395.

He’d exited the pickup truck he was driving to a community meeting in Grant County from the wildlife refuge, which he and other members of a group had occupied since Jan. 2. The occupiers originally traveled to Burns to protest the imprisonment of two area ranchers, but they later demanded the federal government release public lands in Harney County to the people in the county.

There were several passengers in the vehicle, one of whom shot video of the incident. Authorities played that video alongside a previously released aerial video of the incident during a press conference Tuesday.

Presented with what they believed was the imminent threat of deadly physical force, troopers were legally justified in shooting at Finicum, first when they shot three times at his truck, and again when they shot three times directly at Finicum once he exited the vehicle, said Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris.

The scope of Norris’ findings was limited to shots fired by state troopers, and the U.S. Attorney in Oregon and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General are investigating the two shots allegedly fired by federal agents.

Norris and other county, state and federal officials, including Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, provided a summary of their findings Tuesday morning. Nelson said Finicum, after initially failing to yield to state troopers , drove off toward a roadblock established by state troopers and FBI agents at speeds of over 70 mph.

“Under Oregon law, Mr. Finicum was using his truck as a dangerous weapon,” Norris said.

Finicum swerved to avoid the roadblock and ran into a snowbank. Norris said it appeared Finicum planned to crash through or evade the roadblock, an action that could possibly kill or seriously injure the troopers and FBI agents stationed there. They also pointed to statements Finicum made in an apparent provocation of the troopers. During the video, he is heard saying, “Go ahead and shoot me.”

When Finicum got out of the truck, troopers told him to get on the ground, according to transcripts of the video provided by authorities. After he failed to comply with their demands, and reached toward the left side of his body three times, officers fired three shots at him.

All of those shots hit Finicum — twice in the left shoulder and once in the right lower back.

“The troopers knew that Mr. Finicum carried a weapon in his left side,” Norris said.

Nelson added that social media photos documented Finicum carrying a handgun on his left-hand side and that detectives found a loaded 9 mm handgun in the interior left-hand pocket of his jacket.

In January, officials said they’d found three other loaded weapons in the truck, according to The Bulletin archives.

Said Norris, “Mr. Finicum was reaching for that 9 mm gun when the troopers lawfully used deadly physical force to protect themselves and others, including the trooper who was armed with a Taser.”

But Nelson said investigators could not determine who fired two additional shots, one of which landed on the roof of the truck.

He said FBI agents — members of the agency’s Hostage Rescue Team — that were at the scene of the shooting did not tell investigators about the shots in interviews Jan. 26 and Feb. 5 and 6.

“Of particular concern to all of us is that the FBI HRT operators did not disclose their shots to our investigators,” Nelson said. “Nor did they disclose specific actions they took after the shooting.”

After final statements from Norris and Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan, Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge of the Portland Division, said investigators found that one or two additional shots may have been fired.

“… One, and possibly two, additional shots were fired by law enforcement as Mr. Finicum was exiting the vehicle immediately after hitting the snow bank,” said Bretzing. “As autopsy results confirm, neither of these shots struck Mr. Finicum. The question of who fired these shots has not been resolved.”

Because FBI agents were present during the shooting, Bretzing said the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General is investigating the issue. He said he would not comment further except to say the FBI was cooperating with the investigation.

Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said he would not provide further comment on the investigation into the two shots, as it was ongoing. He said his office is consulting with the Inspector General, which investigates alleged misconduct by DOJ personnel.

Nelson said Tuesday that the recent departure of two high-ranking officials at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office did not have an effect on the investigation.

In a statement to the press that was posted on her Facebook page Tuesday, Finicum’s wife, Jeanette, said investigators brought forward “selective evidence” and called the traffic stop an “ambush along a blind curve along a lonely stretch of highway.”

Furthermore, she contended, her husband kept his hands up and reached toward his left side in pain.

“I do not think anything could prepare me to accept what is so clearly a finding that challenges a Constitution my husband died defending,” Jeanette Finicum said.

In a statement, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown commended the completion of the investigation but called the questions about the additional shots “troubling and properly the subject of an ongoing investigation.”

­—Reporter: 541-383-0376,

cwithycombe@bendbulletin.com

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