FBI Releases Aerial Surveillance Video Of Refuge Occupier's Death | KERA News

FBI Releases Aerial Surveillance Video Of Refuge Occupier's Death

Jan 29, 2016
Originally published on January 29, 2016 7:20 am

Two days after law enforcement officers shot and killed one of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the FBI released an aerial surveillance video of the incident.

Authorities say the footage shows the shooting death of 54-year-old Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, of Freedonia, Ariz., who had acted as the group's spokesman.

FBI Special Agent in Charge for Oregon Greg Bretzing released the video at a news conference in Burns, Ore., on Thursday night. It was shown to a hushed room on two flat-screen monitors.

"Actions have consequences," said Bretzing, "and the FBI and Oregon State Police tried to effect these arrests peacefully."

Bretzing said two vehicles left the refuge, one carrying the occupation leader Ammon Bundy and another driven by Finicum. Bretzing said both vehicles were stopped by law enforcement. Bundy and six others were arrested.

The second vehicle, a white pickup truck, then sped away. At one point it stopped and one occupant surrendered.

"For a period of almost four minutes while commands were being given," Bretzing said, "the occupants of that vehicle refused to comply with those commands."

Finicum then sped off, attempting to blow through a nearby police checkpoint, but instead he swerved into a snow bank, nearly hitting an FBI agent. The video then shows Finicum getting out of the truck with his hands up. Two Oregon State Police troopers approach him, guns drawn. A moment later, Finicum appears to be reaching toward his waist.

"As is seen in the video, he makes a movement toward the inside-right panel of his jacket," Bretzing said, "where there was located a loaded semi-automatic pistol."

Finicum is then shot and falls in the snow.

The FBI says that in addition to the handgun Finicum carried, there were three other loaded weapons in the truck.

The circumstances around Finicum's death have been the source of speculation these past few days, especially among self-styled militia groups. Some have called on their members to convene in Burns on Saturday to protest the FBI.

With four militants still holed up at the refuge, Bretzing again tried to assure this anxious community that agents are working around the clock to negotiate a peaceful resolution.

"We know you want your town back," he said. "We know you want your community back, and we know you want this concluded as soon as possible."

That news conference capped a dramatic couple of hours Thursday. For a brief moment, it had even appeared the occupation was nearing its conclusion.

An FBI checkpoint was cleared and without explanation a few reporters who happened to be there were able to start driving into the refuge, only to find a new makeshift checkpoint about a mile or so from the occupied buildings.

An Oregon State Police trooper using a megaphone ordered reporters to turn around and leave.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There is plenty of debate about this week's shooting of a militant who had occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Conspiracy theories have spread about that shooting, so now the FBI has released a video of the incident. It's aerial footage showing the death of Robert LaVoy Finicum. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Shortly after the Oregon state medical examiner confirmed it was Robert LaVoy Finicum, of Fredonia, Ariz., that was shot and killed, the FBI special agent in charge of Oregon, Greg Bretzing, addressed reporters in downtown Burns last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG BRETZING: Actions have consequences. The FBI and Oregon State Police tried to effect these arrests peacefully.

SIEGLER: As the hushed room watched on two flat-screen monitors, Bretzing gave a play-by-play of the graphic aerial surveillance video of Tuesday's arrests of occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six others. After Bundy is apprehended, a second vehicle speeds away - a white pick-up driven by LaVoy Finicum. At one point, it stops, and one occupant surrenders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRETZING: For a period of almost four minutes, while commands were being given, the occupants of that vehicle refused to comply with those commands.

SIEGLER: Finicum then sped off, attempting to blow through a nearby police checkpoint, but instead swerves into a snow bank, nearly hitting an FBI agent. He then jumps out of the truck with his hands up. Two Oregon state police approach him, guns drawn. A moment later, Finicum appears to be reaching toward his waist.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRETZING: There's a scene in the video. He makes a movement towards the inside right panel of his jacket, where there was located a loaded semiautomatic pistol.

SIEGLER: Finicum is then shot and falls in the snow. The FBI says in addition to the handgun he carried, there were three other loaded weapons in the truck. Now, the circumstances around Finicum's death have been the source of speculation these last few days, especially among self-styled militia groups. Some have called on their members to convene here in Burns Saturday to protest the FBI. With a few militants still holed up out at the refuge, Bretzing again tried to reassure this anxious community that agents are working around the clock to negotiate a peaceful resolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRETZING: We know you want your town back. We know you want your community back. And we know you want this concluded as soon as possible.

SIEGLER: That press conference capped a dramatic couple of hours yesterday. For a brief moment, it had even appeared the occupation was nearing its conclusion. An FBI checkpoint was cleared and, without explanation, a few of us who happened to be there were able to start driving into the refuge - only to find a new makeshift checkpoint about a mile or so from the occupied buildings and a stern warning from an Oregon state trooper shouting through a megaphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Turn around. Go back to the West from the other side of the Orange Road sign. Go now.

SIEGLER: On this road, a shaken Barbara Berg said she had just left the refuge, where she had been trying to convince the remaining militants to leave, telling them it's not worth dying.

BARBARA BERG: It's not over. There's work to do. But this is not how to get it done.

SIEGLER: Berg, a sympathizer who came to the refuge from her home in Nevada, says the FBI let her stay these past few days within their perimeter in hopes she could negotiate with the occupiers.

BERG: I guess it's just all sinking, you know. I don't know. Maybe I can't help them anymore.

SIEGLER: Still, the chorus of calls to end the occupation, even from Ammon Bundy himself, continues to grow. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Burns, Ore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.