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Investigation: Finicum shooting 'justified,' 'necessary'

COURTESY OF FBI VIDEO - An overhead video shows the Jan. 26 shooting of Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum, who was killed during a traffic stop on Highway 395 north of Burns. A Deschutes County investigation into the shooting concluded it was justified.Investigators with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and the Harney and Malheur County district attorneys found that the shots that killed militant Robert “LaVoy” Finicum were justified and “necessary,” they said Tuesday.

They also say that, despite complaints from occupiers and their supporters that police shot more than 100 times into the truck carrying Finicum and other militants, only eight shots were fired — six from the Oregon State Police and two by members of the FBI hostage rescue team.

The two shots fired by FBI officials will be the subject of another investigation, because the agents did not initially disclose firing at Finicum, investigators said.

On a remarkable cellphone video shot by militant Shawna Cox, Finicum can be heard repeatedly ignoring commands from law enforcement to surrender. He’s also heard insisting that officers shoot him.

“Mr. Finicum chose to break the law,” said Greg Bretzig, the FBI special agent in charge of the refuge occupation.

Finicum was hit with three bullets in the back. Those were justified, investigators said.

Oregon State Troopers shot Finicum, a Nevada rancher, along Highway 395 on Jan. 26. He was en route to a meeting in John Day, along with Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, and several other of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers.


CAUTION: VIDEO INCLUDES GRAPHIC IMAGES AND SOUNDS




When law enforcement officials stopped the convoy carrying these militants, Cox began recording on her phone. Investigators were able to sync law enforcement footage with Cox’s cellphone footage.

During the press conference, the officials played the footage, which showed people in the vehicle carrying Finicum, Cox, Payne one of the Bundy brothers refusing commands by law enforcement to stop and get out of their vehicle.

At one point in the video, Finicum told Oregon State Police to back down. Finicum said he was going to meet Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer and prompted officials to “go ahead and shoot me” if they wanted stop him.

After a few minutes of discussion inside the vehicle, Finicum approached the roadblock at 70 mph, officials said Tuesday, March 8.

Gov. Kate Brown praised the Deschutes County investigation in a statement released Tuesday.

“Any loss of life is regrettable, and I appreciate that the independent investigation into the actions of Oregon State Police was completed swiftly and thoroughly,” Brown said.

Family wants separate probe

The Central Oregon Major Incident team led this investigation. At the request of Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan, Malheur County District Attorney Daniel Norris also reviewed the investigation, officials said.

The FBI said Finicum had a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the left inside pocket that he reached for before being shot.

At an earlier press conference, the FBI announced that agents found three other loaded weapons inside the truck that Finicum had been driving. They included two loaded .223-caliber semi-automatic rifles. There was also one loaded .38-caliber special revolver.

Finicum’s eldest daughter, Thara Tenny, has asked for a separate investigation into the shooting. “We are calling for a private, independent investigation to find out exactly what happened to our dad in an ambush on a lonely desolate stretch of highway in the dead of winter in eastern Oregon,” said Thenny, following Finicum’s Feb. 5 funeral in Kanab, Utah.

Finicum’s family is planning a press statement Tuesday afternoon.

The federal investigation, conducted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, will determine whether a member of the hostage rescue team failed to disclose firing at Finicum as he left the truck and whether anyone participated in a cover up over those shots.

“The county’s investigation also indicated that, in between the two series of shots fired by OSP troopers, one, and possibly two, additional shots were fired by law enforcement as Mr. Finicum was exiting the vehicle after hitting the snow bank,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said. “The question of who fired these shots has not been resolved.”

Amanda Peacher is a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting, a Pamplin Media Group news partner.