LaVoy Finicum’s family questions shooting despite FBI video

Jason Sickles

The FBI’s aggressive move to release video evidence which they say shows anti-government protester LaVoy Finicum reaching for a gun before being shot and killed by police apparently did little to persuade the dead man’s family.

“LaVoy was not ‘charging’ anyone,’” his survivors said Friday afternoon in a statement released through their attorney. “He appears to have been shot in the back, with his hands in the air.”

Their comments, first reported by Reuters, come a day after the FBI took the unusual step of making a 26-minute surveillance video public two days after Finicum was killed. The aerial video, which the bureau published to its YouTube page, had more than 1.5 million views in less than 24 hours.

A state trooper shot Finicum, 54, Tuesday when a team of law enforcement officers set up a traffic stop to arrest several leaders of the month-long protest over federal control of ranch lands.

In this Jan. 6, 2016 photo, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum carries his rifle after standing guard all night at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer)

During the Tuesday confrontation, the FBI and Oregon State Troopers arrested five main figures in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including Ammon Bundy, their leader. The video, shot from an FBI airplane, shows Bundy's vehicle stopped by police on a road. A truck driven by Finicum was stopped but took off before plowing into a snowbank when encountering a police roadblock.

The video shows a man, identified as Finicum, get out of the truck and take several steps through the deep snow. At first, he raises his hands, but then appears to reach toward the inside of his coat.

“On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket,” Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge for the FBI in Portland, said Thursday night. “He did have a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the pocket.”

Finicum’s family isn’t convinced by the aerial footage.

“At this point we will await the outcome of any investigation, but based on the information currently available to us, we do not believe that LaVoy's shooting death was justified,” they said in the statement.

Despite the week’s dramatic turn of events, including the arrests of 10 occupiers, the standoff at the federal wildlife refuge continues. Four protesters are reportedly barricaded on the property, which is 30 miles south of Burns, Oregon.

Earlier Friday, a Pacific Northwest patriot group urged protesters to immediately descend on Burns in response to the arrests and Finicum’s death.

In a written “call to action” the Pacific Patriots Network — a consortium of self-described constitutional advocate groups from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho — pressed “any and all Americans” to come peacefully assemble and air grievances “against these violent, malicious and deceitful tactics.”

Since the shooting, anti-government extremists have lauded Finicum as a martyr on social media. Many have shared an audio recording of an 18-year-old woman who was in Finicum’s truck and claims officers shot him without cause.

“This is a movement that has thrived on martyrs going all the way back to Ruby Ridge and Waco,” said Mark Potok, a researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks extremists groups. “They are absolutely trying now to portray LaVoy Finicum as simply the latest martyr.”

Despite the early release of the video and the promise of an independent criminal investigation, the Pacific Patriots Network said they want all law enforcement present or involved in Finicum’s death be immediately jailed.

“A first-hand eyewitness account presents reasonable cause for arrest while the investigation takes place,” the statement reads.

The group, who claim some of the occupiers arrested have been lied to by federal agents, also wants the removal of all militarized FBI personnel from the county and the resignations of Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, Sheriff David Ward, and two commissioners.

Clint Siegner (L) and his father Monte Siegner join other demonstrators during a protest outside the Harney County Court House in Burns, Oregon on Friday. (REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

The network asked supporters to show up in force, but with cool heads.

“If you have any ill intent, please do not come,” the statement reads. “We do not need you. Please come prepared with civilian attire and adhere to the policy of no long guns within the community.”

Potok said the network is comprised of local chapters of “The Three Percenters” and “Oathkeepers” whose national organizations have previously called for an end to the Oregon occupation.

“Sure it's worrying,” Potok told Yahoo News. “But I think it is very much up in the air though whether anyone will actually respond to this call to action.

The reality is the patriot movement is very fractured about this. A few people are calling for this kind of action or even bloodshed, but I would say that the majority of people in this movement are urging others to stand down.”

Jason Sickles is a national reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).