FBI releases video of fatal shooting of Oregon protester

Rob Kerr

Burns (United States) (AFP) - The FBI released a video Thursday showing Oregon state police shooting dead one of the armed protesters who took over a wildlife refuge in a three-week occupation involving ranchers angry over land management policies.

The video release came after protest leader Ammon Bundy repeated a call for the last four holdouts to peacefully leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to avoid more bloodshed.

Eleven people including Bundy have been arrested since Tuesday, when Robert "LaVoy" Finicum -- the movement's de facto spokesman -- was shot dead near the town of Burns in a bloody twist to the drawn-out standoff with the federal government.

Greg Bretzing, of the FBI's Portland office, said that they were releasing footage and details of the fatal incident to clear up what he called inaccurate and inflammatory accounts of what unfolded.

The video was shot from an FBI plane overlooking a highway on which two vehicles, one of which Finicum was driving, were traveling.

"I want to caution you that the video does show the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum," Bretzing told a media conference.

"We realize that viewing that piece of the video will be upsetting to some people, but we feel that it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency."

The footage shows FBI and police vehicles pull up behind a jeep, which stops, and three people -- including Bundy -- get out "without incident." Bundy was arrested.

The second vehicle, Finicum's white truck, carries on with officials in pursuit.

A few minutes later one man gets out and gives himself up, but Finicum refuses to surrender and drives off again at speed and approaches a road block, before swerving, nearly hitting an FBI agent and getting stuck in a snowbank.

"Finicum leaves the truck and steps through the snow. Agents and troopers on scene had information that Finicum and others would be armed," said Bretzing.

"On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket. He did have a loaded nine millimeter semi-automatic handgun in that pocket.

"At this time, OSP (state) troopers shot Finicum."

Three remaining people in the truck, including Bundy's 43-year-old brother Ryan, were taken into custody and officials then gave medical help to Finicum.

"That happened about 10 minutes after the shooting," said Bretzing, adding that they found three loaded weapons in the truck, including two semi-automatic rifles.

- End to the standoff? -

Earlier Thursday, a convoy of 30 armored vehicles rolled into the wildlife refuge, appearing to point at an imminent intervention by law enforcement to drive out the last protesters, estimated by the FBI at four.

There were about 30 protesters at the refuge last week.

Protest leader Bundy reiterated his call for those left to surrender.

"Turn yourselves in and do not use physical force," the 40-year-old said in a statement released by his lawyers.

Bundy urged his supporters to "continue to defend liberty through our constitutional rights," including through the use of media and social media.

"We only had guns for our protection and never once pointed them at another individual or had any desire to do so," he added. "The people have a right to bear arms for their own protection. We never wanted bloodshed."

The Bundy brothers are the sons of Cliven Bundy, 69, a vitriolic anti-government activist who in 2014 engaged in an armed standoff with federal authorities over unpaid cattle grazing fees at his Nevada ranch.

Cliven Bundy claimed that Finicum was shot "in cold blood" while he had his hands in the air.

Bundy and his supporters took over the wildlife refuge on January 2 to protest at the jailing of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, who were convicted of arson.

Their demands soon grew to include calls for the government to turn over area federal land to local ranchers. In Oregon, nearly 53 percent of the land is federally owned.

The Hammonds distanced themselves from the movement and voluntarily began their scheduled prison sentences after the occupation began.