What went wrong when Oregon State Police and the FBI tried to arrest leaders of the illegal occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge?
During the traffic stop on Tuesday, police managed to arrest five militia members, including leader Ammon Bundy, without much trouble. But the incident ended with another, LaVoy Finicum, shot and killed. Initially, details were sparse, and police wouldn’t even confirm that Finicum was the man they had shot. But late Thursday they released video, shot from a plane, of the incident that clarifies some of what happened. This is an edited version, but the full, nearly 27-minute video, is here.
The seven people were driving from the refuge to the town of John Day, along Highway 395, in two SUVs when police attempted to stop them. A Jeep carried Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier, both of whom face federal charges, and a driver who does not. (A man named Mark McConnell has said he was the driver.) They all exited the car without incident. But a white truck, driven by Finicum, kept going, then stopped further down the road. Police approached and gave commands to the passengers. Ryan Payne left the truck. Then the driver took off at high speed, headed down the deserted road.
But there was a roadblock ahead. As Finicum neared the roadblock, made up of three trucks, he veered left, trying to get around them, but his truck lodged in a snowdrift. (The film shows Finicum nearly hitting an FBI agent.) Once again, police shouted commands to them. Finicum, 55, exited the car almost immediately, with his hands up, and started walking away from the officers. Then he reached for his pocket, at which point a Oregon trooper, from the trees away from the road, shot him.