Robert LaVoy Finicum|
January 27, 1961
Kanab, Utah, United States
January 26, 2016 (aged 54)|
Harney County, Oregon, United States
|Cause of death||Gunshot wounds|
|Resting place||Kanab, Utah|
|Residence||Chino Valley, Arizona|
|Occupation||Main income as foster parent, also cattle rancher|
|Parent(s)||David Finicum, Nelda Finicum |
Robert LaVoy Finicum (January 27, 1961 – January 26, 2016) was an American spokesman for the militia group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, who staged an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the State of Oregon, United States, on January 2, 2016.
On January 26, 2016, law enforcement officers attempted to arrest Finicum and other occupation leaders while they were traveling on a remote highway away from the occupation site. After fleeing the officers, Finicum was stopped by a roadblock, where he challenged officers to shoot him. He was shot and killed by state troopers while moving his hands toward his pocket, where officers later found a loaded weapon.
In 2002, Finicum filed for bankruptcy while living in New Mexico and doing business as "Southwest Horse and Trails". By 2008, Finicum operated a foster home for troubled boys near Chino Valley, Arizona. According to a 2010 tax filing, Catholic Charities Community Services in Arizona paid the family US$115,343 to foster children in 2009. In January 2016, the state removed all of Finicum's foster children due to his involvement with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (discussed below). Finicum said this took away his family's main source of income.
During that time, Finicum also operated a ranch that did not produce income. After the state removed his foster children, Finicum told the media, "My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch."
In August 2015, Finicum decided to cease complying with the terms of his grazing permit with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). At the time, he released a YouTube video in which he claimed it was unconstitutional for the federal government to own BLM lands and said he was inspired by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and events surrounding the 2014 Bundy standoff. In less than six months, Finicum accrued more than US$12,000 in fees and fines, which he refused to pay.
In 2016, Finicum was erroneously mentioned in court filings in the government's felony case against William Keebler, who planted a bomb at a BLM cabin near Finicum's ranch earlier that year. In the first complaint filed with the court, the government alleged Finicum had accompanied Keebler on a "reconnaissance" of the cabin in October 2015. However, the government later filed a corrected complaint and an FBI agent testified Finicum had not actually been there. His widow said Keebler had been at their ranch on other business that day, and stated that her husband had no knowledge of Keebler's bombing plans.
2016 refuge occupation and death
Participation in the occupation
Finicum served as a spokesman for the armed militants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. He was dubbed "Tarp Man" by MSNBC for sitting outside at night in a rocking chair, holding a rifle on his lap, and sometimes covering himself completely with a blue tarp for additional protection against the elements. When asked on January 6 if he would rather be killed than arrested if the occupation turned violent, Finicum replied, "I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box."
First arrest attempt
On January 26, Finicum was one of several occupation leaders who left the refuge (located in Harney County) via a two-truck convoy. The convoy also included occupation leaders Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, and Ryan Payne plus two supporters, Victoria Sharp and Brian Cavalier. Their intention was to speak at a public meeting in the city of John Day in adjacent Grant County. Finicum was driving his white 2015 pickup truck, followed by a dark-colored Jeep.
State and federal authorities used the opportunity to intercept them with a two-phase operation involving a traffic stop and a roadblock about two miles further along the highway. Both were set up on an unpopulated stretch of U.S. Route 395 in Harney County. The operation had originally been planned for a location in adjacent Grant County, but was moved to Harney County because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Oregon State Police (OSP) considered the Grant County sheriff, Glenn Palmer, to be a security leak due to favorable comments he had made with respect to the militants. Authorities feared a militia response, and a location was selected with poor cell phone service.
As the convoy entered the operation area, vehicles driven by the FBI and the OSP pulled in behind the Jeep. When the Jeep pulled over, Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier were peacefully arrested. The driver of the Jeep, Mark McConnell, who was a government informant and the only occupant of the vehicle with a firearm, was not arrested or charged.
In the lead vehicle, Finicum kept driving but eventually stopped as well. Police fired a 40mm plastic-tipped round of pepper spray, which hit the top of Finicum's truck. At that point, Ryan Payne exited Finicum's truck and surrendered peacefully. Finicum's other passengers, Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp, remained in his truck.
After Payne's surrender, Cox and Bundy each started recording cell phone videos of the confrontation. The videos captured police identifying themselves as Oregon State Patrol and ordering Finicum to turn off his engine. Refusing their order, Finicum yelled back that he was going to meet Palmer and that the only way officers could prevent that meeting was to shoot him. Finicum yelled at the troopers, "You back down or you kill me now. Go ahead. Put the bullet through me. I don't care. I'm going to go meet the sheriff. You do as you damned well please."
Flight and death
About seven minutes after stopping his truck, Finicum drove away with his three remaining passengers at high speed. They were pursued by officers. About 1 mile (1,609 m) later, Finicum rounded a bend and spotted the roadblock. As OSP fired at Finicum's approaching vehicle, Finicum braked and steered his truck left into deep snow, narrowly missing an FBI agent.
When Finicum's truck became stuck in the snow, he immediately exited the vehicle, just as two shots were fired by an FBI agent. One shot struck the roof of Finicum's truck and the other went wild. These shots became the subject of controversy because the FBI agents initially failed to disclose them.
Meanwhile, Finicum moved about in the snow, alternating between holding his hands above his head and seemingly reaching into his jacket, where officers later found a loaded semi-automatic weapon. OSP officers and FBI agents armed with rifles positioned themselves along the road, while an OSP officer, who had holstered his firearm and equipped himself with a nonlethal Taser X2, walked toward him from the treeline with the intention of subduing him. As Finicum moved his hands down, he turned towards the approaching taser-holding officer and repeatedly yelled, "You're going to have to shoot me!" The troopers believed Finicum to be armed and considered his hand position to signal an imminent threat to the life of the taser-holding officer; Finicum was holding his jacket with his left hand and reaching for a pocket with his right hand. Two troopers fired a total of three times, and a third who was about to fire held back, realizing a fourth shot was not needed. Medical assistance was given to Finicum approximately 10 minutes after the shooting.
Aftermath of death
After Finicum's death, officials stated that he was reaching for a gun in his pocket when he was shot by a state trooper. The FBI also said that a loaded handgun was found in Finicum's pocket. It was later identified as a 9mm Ruger SR9 handgun. Finicum received the handgun as a gift from his stepson. His public autopsy was performed on January 28, but officials withheld the autopsy report from the press until March 8. Cause of death was listed as three gunshot wounds of the back, abdomen and chest. Manner of death: homicide. All wounds were specified as gunshot entry from the back (posterior left shoulder, left upper back and right lower back.)
Investigators with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, assigned to process the scene of Finicum's shooting, were accounting for the two known sets of shots fired by the OSP officers during the event (the shots that killed Finicum, and the earlier shots that struck his vehicle) when they discovered a bullet that struck the roof of the truck at a different trajectory. After ascertaining the bullet's existence with cell phone video taken by one of Finicum's passengers, investigators modeled the bullet's trajectory using computers, and determined that the bullet was fired from the direction where two FBI agents were standing. They later determined that a FBI Hostage Rescue Team member fired twice at Finicum, missing and injuring a second militant in the process. The agent, whose identity was withheld, was under investigation, along with four other FBI agents who were suspected of attempting to conceal evidence of the gunshots. They reportedly told investigators that none of them fired a shot during the incident.
During initial processing of the scene, the rifle cartridge casings purportedly fired by the FBI agent were reported not present. However, an OSP officer later described seeing two casings at the scene near where the FBI agents were positioned. FBI aerial surveillance video shows agents searching the area, then huddling together before breaking up moments later, with one agent bending over twice to pick up an unknown object. Law enforcement officials began the investigation into the gunshots after watching the full surveillance video and suspecting something was amiss. Two FBI pickup trucks were searched for casings, but none were found, while at least three OSP officers were interrogated about their initial processing of the scene.
On March 8, officials revealed their findings to the public. The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the conduct of the agents. Deschutes County Sheriff's Office investigators, along with the district attorneys of Malheur and Harney Counties, declared that Finicum's shooting death was "justified and necessary."
On April 5, cellphone video footage shot by another of Finicum's passengers was released by authorities.
Prosecution of FBI agent
An FBI agent, W. Joseph Astarita, is alleged to have fired two shots at Finicum's pickup, one of which penetrated the roof of the pickup and exited through a window. FBI agents were believed to have recovered the ejected empty cartridges. A five-count indictment for lying about the circumstances at the scene of Finicum's death, and obstruction of justice, has been obtained in Portland against Astarita by the Department of Justice. He is being represented by a public defender and his trial began in Portland in late July 2018.
Prior to the video of the action being released, some of the militants and supporters had claimed that Finicum was cooperating with the police when he was shot. This included a claim by Nevada legislator Michele Fiore (who was not present at the arrest) that "he was just murdered with his hands up." Cliven Bundy was quoted as saying that Finicum was "sacrificed for a good purpose." In a March 3 interview in jail, Ammon Bundy called the shooting "egregious" and said that the officers involved "should be ashamed of it."
At a news conference, officials had initially declined to comment on the Finicum shooting because the encounter was still under investigation, but they later released surveillance video of the incident, which officials said shows Finicum reaching for a handgun after feigning surrender. However, Finicum's family continued to dispute the nature of the shooting, claiming that he was shot in the back while his hands were in the air, and denied the FBI's assertion that Finicum was armed at the time of his death. The Finicum family commissioned a private autopsy, but declined to make the results public.
The Oregon State Police received death threats. On February 6, more than 1,000 supporters attended Finicum's funeral in Kanab, Utah, while others rebuilt a razed memorial on U.S. Route 395. About another 100 people led by the 3 Percenters rallied at the Idaho State Capitol in the afternoon in honor of Finicum, who they believed was unarmed at the time of his death. On March 4, a small group of about a dozen armed protesters surrounded a federal courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, demanding the state troopers who shot Finicum to be indicted and fired. Another rally, led by Finicum's widow, was held at the Utah State Capitol on March 5. 200–300 people were in attendance. Several dozen rallies were held at various locations throughout the country the following Saturday.
On August 27, 2016, Finicum's widow Jeanette announced her plans to sue the OSP and the FBI for civil rights violations relating to his death. She retained a California-based attorney, who is also representing Ryan Bundy, for the case.
On January 26, 2018, Finicum's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in United States district court in Pendleton, Oregon. Named as defendants were the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oregon State Police, the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon governor Kate Brown, Greg Bretzing, former FBI special agent in charge in Portland, indicted FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, former U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward (sheriff), Harney County commissioner Steven Grasty, the Center for Biological Diversity and multiple unnamed officers. The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages for Finicum's wife, Jeanette Finicum, and each of their 12 children and his estate. Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, called the suit a "bizarre, incoherent, yet nonetheless dangerous, attack on free speech."
- Brosseau, Carli. "Mourners assemble for LaVoy Finicum funeral in Kanab, Utah today as Oregon standoff continues". The Oregonian.
- Nelson, Clifford C. (January 28, 2016). "Robert L. Finicum" (PDF). Harney County Medical Examiner's Office (Autopsy report). Burns, OR. 16-0092. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Sepulvado, John; Templeton, Amelia (January 26, 2016) [1st pub. January 16, 2016]. "Militant Says Foster Children Were Pulled From His Home". Portland, OR: Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
'[Foster parenting] was my main source of income,' Finicum said. 'My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch.'
- Njus, Elliot (February 23, 2016) [1st pub. February 4, 2016]. "LaVoy Finicum, rancher killed in Oregon occupation, spent time as Portland apartment manager". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Friedman, Gordon; Eversley, Melanie (January 27, 2016). "1 killed as feds move in, arrest protest leader Ammon Bundy". USA Today. Tysons Corner, VA: Gannett Company. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Bernstein, Maxine. "Crowd of 500, including some Oregon standoff defendants, salute Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum". The Oregonian.
- "Tri-County Major Incident Team Released Reports (Redacted), Officer Involved Shooting (2) January 26, 2016 — Robert "LaVoy" Finicum" (PDF). Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- on YouTube
- Tay Wiles; Jonathan Thompson (January 27, 2016). "Authorities closing in on Oregon's Malheur occupation". High Country News.
- Voluntary Petition for Chap 7 Bankruptcy, District of New Mexico (Yuma), case U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Arizona (Yuma) Bankruptcy Petition #: 0:02-bk-00722-RJH.
- Brosseau, Carli (February 23, 2016) [1st pub. January 26, 2016]. "Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum, killed in Oregon shooting, was Arizona foster parent and rancher". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
- Anglen, Robert (March 7, 2008). "State, families at odds over mental care for foster kids". The Arizona Republic. Tysons Corner, VA: Gannett Company. ISSN 0892-8711. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Finicum, LaVoy (August 14, 2015). "LaVoy vs. BLM part 1, 8-14-15". YouTube. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
- Taylor, Phil (February 5, 2016). "Why LaVoy Finicum spurned the government". Greenwire. Washington, D.C.: Environment & Energy Publishing. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
- Peacher, Amanda (July 18, 2016). "Finicum Knew Man Accused In Failed Arizona Bombing". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- Felony Complaint against William Keebler, Case 2:16-mj-00353-DPB. June 22, 2016.
- Preacher, Amanda. "FBI Corrects The Record On LaVoy Finicum's Involvement In Bombing Attempt". OPB. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- O'Donnell, Lawrence (January 7, 2016). "#Tarpman makes his 'Late Night' debut". The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. MSNBC. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
- Dokoupil, Tony (January 6, 2016). "Oregon Occupier LaVoy Finicum Warns FBI He'd Take Death Over Jail". NBC News. New York: NBC. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Gunderson, Laura (March 8, 2016) [1st pub. February 6, 2016]. "LaVoy Finicum shooting: What happened when". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- Terry, Lynne (February 23, 2016) [1st pub. January 27, 2016]. "Inside the John Day meeting where Oregon standoff leaders were headed before arrest". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Hart, Sean (January 25, 2016). "Refuge occupier expected to speak at John Day meeting Tuesday". Blue Mountain Eagle. John Day, OR. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
- Piper, Matthew (March 11, 2016). "Cops who shot Finicum had seen him talking about resisting arrest". The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Zaitz, Les (March 8, 2016). "LaVoy Finicum shot 3 times as he reached for gun, investigators say". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- Perez, Evan (January 28, 2016). "Oregon occupiers: What officials say happened at traffic stop". CNN. Atlanta, GA: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Zaitz, Les (February 18, 2016). "Grant County sheriff viewed as 'security leak' as state seeks investigation". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- "Mark McConnell, man driving Jeep before Ammon Bundy's arrest, was informant, testimony reveals". OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
- Zaitz, Les (March 9, 2016) [1st pub. March 8, 2016]. "FBI agents under investigation for possible misconduct in LaVoy Finicum shooting". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Lah, Kyung (3 February 2016). "Woman says she was feet away when shots killed Oregon occupier Finicum". CNN. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
- "Ryan Bundy's cell phone video of moments before and after Finicum shooting released". Portland, OR: KATU. April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
- Rollins, Michael (April 6, 2016). "New video of Lavoy Finicum stop released". Portland, OR: KATU. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
- "FBI footage shows LaVoy Finicum reaching for waistband". Portland, OR: KOIN. January 29, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
- Perez, Evan; Yan, Holly (January 27, 2016). "Oregon: Ammon Bundy, others arrested; LaVoy Finicum killed". CNN. Atlanta, GA: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Zaitz, Les (March 18, 2016) [1st pub. March 15, 2016]. "Bullet casings disappear from LaVoy Finicum shooting scene, sources say". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- "Sheriff: FBI agents didn't tell investigators about 2 shots fired at Finicum's truck". Eugene, OR: KVAL-TV. March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- "What we know about the Malheur Wildlife Refuge arrests". Portland, OR: KATU. Associated Press. January 27, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Zaitz, Les (March 8, 2016). "What LaVoy Finicum shooting investigation found". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- "Chaotic scene of LaVoy Finicum shooting, explained (graphic animation)". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. March 23, 2016 [1st pub. March 18, 2016]. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Mimica, Mila (January 28, 2016). "FBI: Finicum nearly struck agent, reached for loaded weapon before he was shot and killed". Portland, OR: KATU. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- Petty, Terrence; DuBois, Steven (January 29, 2016). "Prosecutors use refuge occupiers' own words against them". The Seattle Times. Seattle, WA: The Seattle Times Company. ISSN 0745-9696. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
- "Newly released documents show Finicum's 9-mm was a gift from stepson". Blue Mountain Eagle. John Day, OR. March 14, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Njus, Elliot (March 8, 2016). "LaVoy Finicum's widow disputes police findings, says husband's shooting was 'assassination'". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Zaitz, Les (March 9, 2016). "Mystery shots fired at LaVoy Finicum: 7 key questions and answers (video)". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
- Zaitz, Les (March 10, 2016) [1st pub. March 8, 2016]. "Bullet hole on LaVoy Finicum's truck traced to elite FBI team". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Peacher, Amanda (April 5, 2016). "Finicum Shooting Investigators Release Bundy Cellphone Video". Portland, OR: Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
- A bullet hole, a mystery and an FBI agent's indictment — the messy aftermath of the Oregon refuge standoff, Los Angeles Times, Brian Denson and Matt Pearce, June 28, 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
- 12 takeaways from Week 2 of FBI agent's trial in LaVoy Finicum shooting, The Oregonian, Maxine Bernstein, August 5, 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
- Miller, Michael E. (January 27, 2016). "LaVoy Finicum, Ore. occupier who said he'd rather die than go to jail, did just that". The Washington Post. Arlington, VA: Nash Holdings LLC. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Farrell, Paul (January 28, 2016) [1st pub. January 26, 2016]. "LaVoy Finicum Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. New York: Heavy Inc. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- Bernstein, Maxine (March 3, 2016). "Ammon Bundy says jail 'most difficult thing I've ever done'". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Turkewitz, Julie; Seminara, Dave; Johnson, Kirk (January 27, 2016). "3 More Arrests in Oregon as Protest Leader Says 'Go Home'". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 28, 2016. "A version of this article appears in print on January 28, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Jailed Oregon Protest Leader Urges Followers: ‘Please Go Home’."
- Pearce, Matt (January 28, 2016). "FBI releases video of Oregon occupier's fatal shooting by state police". Los Angeles Times. Chicago, IL: Tribune Publishing. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Kaplan, Sarah (January 28, 2016). "FBI releases video, explains how police fatally shot Oregon refuge occupier". The Washington Post. Arlington, VA: Nash Holdings LLC. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Henderson, Peter (January 29, 2016). "Family of slain Oregon protester challenges FBI account of his death". Yahoo! News. Sunnyvale, CA: Yahoo!. Reuters. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
- Park, Eileen (February 16, 2016) [1st pub. February 14, 2016]. "OSP gets threats after LaVoy Finicum's death". Portland, OR: KOIN. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
- Richardson, Valerie (February 7, 2016). "Standoff at Oregon's Malheur refuge may hurt cause of public lands protesters". The Washington Times. New York: Operations Holdings. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- Fenner, Erin (February 6, 2016). "About 100 rally at Idaho Statehouse to remember Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier". Idaho Statesman. Sacramento, CA: The McClatchy Company. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- Anglen, Robert (March 4, 2016). "Armed protesters outside Tucson court demand justice in LaVoy Finicum's death in Oregon standoff". The Arizona Republic. Tysons Corner, VA: Gannett Company. ISSN 0892-8711. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- Maffly, Brian (March 11, 2016) [1st pub. March 5, 2016]. "Video: LaVoy Finicum's widow tells Utah rally her husband was murdered during Oregon standoff". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, UT. ISSN 0746-3502. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Zarkhin, Fedor (March 4, 2016). "Interactive Map: Dozens of rallies in memory of LaVoy Finicum planned Saturday nationwide". The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. Advance Publications. ISSN 8750-1317. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
- Foden-Vencil, Kristian (May 12, 2016). "Arizona Politicians Call On Oregon Governor To Investigate LaVoy Finicum Death". Portland, OR: Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- Williams, Kale (August 27, 2016). "Lavoy Finicum's widow announces plans to sue feds, state cops over husband's death". Oregon Live. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
- Finicum files wrongful death lawsuit against FBI, BLM, Oregon State Police and others, The Oregonian, Maxine Bernstein, January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
- Kieran Suckling on Twitter, January 26, 2018