Burns, OR – The nearly month-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge building in Oregon took a deadly turn Tuesday night as federal and state law enforcement ambushed vehicles en route to a meeting with area residents.
A group of the protesters, including Ammon Bundy, were on U.S. Highway 395 bound for John Day, scheduled to speak at an evening community meeting about the future of the area, when the ambush occurred.
Several hundred people gathered at the John Day Senior Center, waiting in vain for “guest speakers” that would never arrive. The occupiers were invited to the meeting as a set-up by law enforcement, meant to isolate the men in a cell phone dead zone on a road that had been blocked off for 60 miles by law enforcement.
Law enforcement sources have attempted to frame the official narrative as a traffic stop in which Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum and Ryan Bundy attempted to resist arrest, which resulted in Finicum’s death. Eyewitness accounts provide a very different accounting of the events that unfolded on the isolated highway.
According to a report in the Oregonian:
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said Ammon Bundy called his wife, Lisa Bundy, from the back of a police car on Tuesday night and said Finicum was cooperating with police when he was shot.
According to eyewitness Victoria Sharps, a woman who was in Finicum’s truck when it was stopped by law enforcement, there is no question about whether the rancher had his hands in the air or if he was shot unprovoked.
“He was just walking, with his hands in the air, and they shot him dead,” Sharps said, adding, “His hands were still up after he was dead.”
Finicum was shot at least six times, three times after he fell, she said, in an account posted on Youtube and shared by the Bundy Ranch Facebook page.
Sharps claims that Finicum exited the vehicle after his truck hit a snow bank and became stuck as he attempted to evade law enforcement. Finicum, yelled at law enforcement once out of the vehicle, telling them “just shoot me,” which they quickly did, according to Sharp.
Sharp claims that the vehicle was riddled with bullets and estimated Finicum’s vehicle was hit with over 120 rounds. She makes the point clearly and concisely that he was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was killed in the ambush-style attack.
Raw Story ran with the headline that that an “eyewitness” saw Finicum charge law enforcement in an attempt to excuse the senseless killing of Finicum, but in the featured video within that story, the witness, Mark McConnell, actually says that he did not see the shooting at all.
McConnell states that Finicum exited the vehicle “charging” in the direction of law enforcement and that he wasn’t killed in cold blood, but also makes a point of stating that he didn’t see the killing of Finicum.
The fact that McConnell admits to not seeing Finicum be gunned down refutes his earlier statement about Finicum not being killed in cold blood, as he didn’t actually see Finicum’s death at the hands of law enforcement and has no idea whether Finicum’s hands were up or not.
“He went after them. He charged them,” McConnell said, citing the second-hand accounts of the events, alleged to have been given by Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne, both passengers in Finicum’s truck. It remains unclear how exactly McConnell would have heard the accounts from those witnesses, since both Payne and Cox were detained by the authorities, while McConnell was allowed to go free.
Mainstream media sources have gone into overdrive, attempting to provide a smokescreen for the pre-planned ambush by acting as an echo chamber for law enforcement, claiming that law enforcement sources “pulled over” the occupier’s vehicle and that they were “unclear” on “who fired first.”
It would seem odd that their source would be unsure of “who fired first,” unless referring to which law enforcement officer took the first shot, as the non-law enforcement eyewitnesses claim that none of the protesters fired even a single shot.
Although the name of the person killed was not released by authorities, Finicum’s daughter confirmed it was Finicum, 55, of Cane Beds, Arizona; the friendly cowboy-hat wearing face of the takeover.
“My dad was such a good good man, through and through,” Arianna Finicum Brown, 26, one of Finicum’s 11 children, told the Oregonian. “He would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved.”
In an intuitive manner, Finicum noted on Monday that “the tenor has changed” in the federal authorities on scene. He noted that they were now less apt to engage in discussion or small talk and seemed to have been preparing for something.
“They’re doing all the things that shows that they want to take some kinetic action against us,” Finicum said one day prior to his killing.
Lavoy Finicum was a simple rancher who looked forward to getting back to his family and cows, but ended up giving his life fighting against the overreach of the federal government. Ammon Bundy’s father, infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, said Finicum died supporting his beliefs.
“He was a wonderful man,” he told CNN affiliate KTNV. “He was a student of the Constitution. He was interested in freedom, and I think he gave his life where he felt it was best.”
When discussing the prospects of prison time with CNN at the start of the occupation, Finicum made clear his love of freedom.
“I’m just not going to prison,” Finicum said. “Look at the stars. There’s no way I’m going to sit in a concrete cell where I can’t see the stars and roll out my bedroll on the ground. That’s just not going to happen. I want to be able to get up in the morning and throw my saddle on my horse and go check on my cows. It’s OK. I’ve lived a good life. God’s been gracious to me.”
He noted that his children were “very concerned” about him, and that he was looking forward to going home to be with them.
“I’m expecting two grandchildren on the way,” he said. “I’d sure like to see those two new babies. So I’ve got a lot to live for.”
Sadly, LaVoy Finicum will never get to meet those grandchildren, as he and his group were ambushed while driving to a peaceful meeting on the invitation of law enforcement. Hopefully, those babies will grow up knowing that their grandfather took a stand for what he believed in; something far too few people do in their lifetimes.
Jay Syrmopoulos is a political analyst, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on Ben Swann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, Raw Story, MintPress News, as well as many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.