The quiet militia spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum—popularly known as the “Tarp Man,” after he gave interviews while sitting under a tarp (with a gun in his lap)—was killed in a shootout Tuesday with the FBI and Oregon state police, the Oregonian reports.
Finicum, a rancher from northern Arizona, near the Utah border, had an amicable relationship with the Bureau of Land Management for most of his life, he told the St. George News last fall. However, after riding with Cliven Bundy during his 2014 standoff with the BLM, Finicum had a change of heart.
“After that incident, I had to do a lot of soul-searching,” Finicum said. “I realized that Cliven Bundy was standing on a very strong constitutional principle—and yet, here I was continuing to pay a grazing fee to the BLM.”
The dispute centered on when Finicum was permitted to graze. The permit allowed 161 cattle to graze from October through May, but the BLM said Finicum was found grazing his cattle on the land in August, outside of the authorized period.
The agency issued Finicum a notice of trespass, then in October a notice of proposed decision that he was “in willful trespass.” Finicum has not gone to the local BLM office to resolve the dispute, the agency said, and he had accumulated about $12,000 in related fees. The case was handled administratively, and the BLM has not tried to impound his cattle.
Speaking from under the tarp on one of the first nights of the occupation, he told reporters that he would rather be killed than be arrested. “I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box,” Finicum said. “There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them...I’m prepared to defend freedom.”
Officials have not yet confirmed that it was Finicum who was killed, but reports of his death are being shared on the social media accounts of people associated with the Oregon occupiers, including Jon Ritzenheimer, who turned himself into police custody on Tuesday night in Arizona. Bundy-sympathizer and Nevada state Rep. Michele Fiore told an OPB reporter that it was Finicum who was killed.