The release last week of video footage taken from the cellphone of a passenger inside the pickup truck driven by Arizona rancher Robert LaVoy Finicum provides dramatic new evidence of the final minutes and seconds before he was shot to death at a roadblock near Burns, Oregon, on January 26.
It also shows, for the first time, the tense situation for the survivors huddled inside the pickup, as the shooting by the FBI and Oregon State Police (OSP) continued.
The video, which was released by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office at a press conference on March 8, shows the new footage as an inset within the already well-known FBI footage taken from an aerial camera and released by the FBI on January 28.
As The New American previously reported, the FBI video, because it is shaky, jumpy, blurry, is of poor resolution, and has no sound, raises more questions than provides answers. It does not, for example, answer the vital questions concerning when the firing began and how many shots were fired. (Government officials acknowledge that neither Mr. Finicum nor any other occupants of his vehicle fired any weapons, although the incident was widely reported, initially, as a "gunfight.") Nor does the newly released video definitively resolve the key issue as to whether Mr. Finicum’s hand motion was the result of reaching for a gun (the FBI/OSP version), which, allegedly, was in his pocket, or was reaching toward his side due to having already been shot (the Finicum family’s version).
The new video footage, which was taken by Shawna Cox, has been unavailable until now, since it was confiscated by the FBI when she was arrested along with the other passengers in Finicum’s truck. Mrs. Cox’s video, which is of good quality, provides important audio and imagery evidence, but still does not definitively resolve key issues, such as the disputed significance of Finicum’s hand motion, which goes directly to the matter of the use of deadly force.
The main takeaway from the March 8 press conference — the message that was blared in headlines in the establishment media — was that the shooting of Finicum, a leader of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was “justified.” Shane Nelson, the Deschutes County sheriff, told the assembled news organizations: “We have determined that eight shots were fired on that day, six of which have been attributed to the Oregon State Police, including the three shots that resulted in the death of Mr. Finicum, and two shots which were fired by the HRT [FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team] operators.”
“Of the eight shots fired, the six fired by the Oregon State Police were justified and, in fact, necessary,” said Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris, who led the investigation and joined Sheriff Nelson at the press conference. “My legal obligation under Oregon law is to review the six shots fired by the Oregon State Police," Norris said. "The Inspector General of the US Department of Justice will review the actions taken by the HRT operators.”
As reported by The Oregonian, this official acknowledgement of the FBI’s HRT involvement in the shooting has caught some people by surprise and further undermines the federal government’s credibility in the matter. “An FBI agent is suspected of lying about firing twice at Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum and may have gotten help from four other FBI agents in covering up afterward, authorities revealed Tuesday,” The Oregonian stated.
“The bullets didn't hit Finicum and didn't contribute to his death,” The Oregonian story continued, “but now all five unnamed agents, part of an elite national unit, are under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is leading the independent inquiry.”
The Oregonian also provides a slow motion video of what is believed to be a bullet from the FBI HRT piercing the passenger door and window as Finicum exits the vehicle with his hands held up.
Sheriff Nelson disputed statements by the two women who were released after the Finicum shooting, Shawna Cox and Victoria Sharp, both of whom said that over a hundred shots were fired by law enforcement personnel. “After Mr. Finicum was shot,” he stated, “numerous gas projectiles and flash bangs were deployed to get the remaining occupants of the truck, Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp, to surrender peacefully but, again, only eight shots were fired.”
It will take sophisticated analysis of the sound recording from the Cox video to determine whether or not the claim of “only eight shots” holds up, or whether additional potentially lethal rounds are detectable among the sounds of “numerous gas projectiles and flash bangs” going off. The Finicum family says it has its own experts analyzing the video to reach their own conclusion.
LaVoy Finicum’s widow, Jeanette Finicum, held a press conference on March 8 in St. George, Utah, to counter the official press conference in Oregon. Reading a prepared statement, Mrs. Finicum emphatically reiterated her earlier statements that her husband had been “murdered,” that the FBI/OSP road block was an “ambush,” a “kill stop.”
The federal and state authorities, she said, “continue to bring forward selective evidence.” However, she reminded her audience, “As in all such situations there is another side to this story.” She stated that the Finicum family categorically rejected, among other things, the charge renewed by authorities earlier in the day that LaVoy Finicum was shot because of the belief that he was going for a gun in his pocket. After addressing several of the points made by Sheriff Nelson, District Attorney Norris and others at the Oregon press conference, she announced that she would have a more detailed response, as well as an opportunity for journalists to ask questions, the following day, March 9.
In her March 9 press conference, Jeanette Finicum did take questions. She also restated her belief that her husband had attempted to protect the other occupants of the vehicle after he had already been fired upon and it had become apparent that the law enforcement officers were intent on shooting him.
"My lawyers have already discussed with me how the facts will show that the officers intended to shoot LaVoy, how an informant arranged for him to be in the lead truck, how the officers started shooting at the truck to force it to stop and then, finally, how my husband gave himself up in order to draw attention away from the others in the truck."
Mrs. Finicum also brought up again an important point that was not addressed by the official press federal/state conference on March 8: Ryan Bundy, who was in LaVoy Finicum’s truck when the shooting/arrest occurred was also wounded, but that bullet has not been accounted for. Also, although the released Shawna Cox video has shed important light on the shooting incident, there is still the need to verify that all of her video has been released. According to third parties interviewed by The New American, Mrs. Cox has said that there should be additional video that hasn’t been released by authorities. (For a video interview of Shawna Cox following her release from jail, see here.)
In addition, there should be video from Ryan Bundy’s cellphone, and as The New American has pointed out, video-audio-photo evidence from bodycams and dashcams of the police/FBI participants in the Finicum shooting. None of these important sources of evidence has been made available yet to the public, nor even been referenced in official statements or press coverage.