On Tuesday, investigators concluded that Oregon State Police officers acted appropriately in the January 26 shooting death of armed Malheur wildlife refuge occupier LaVoy Finicum. According to the New York Times, however, FBI agents are being investigated for not disclosing the fact that they also fired upon Finicum.
Eight shots were fired, investigators said at a press conference, including six by Oregon state officers—all of which were justified. Neither of the shots fired by FBI agents struck Finicum, Sheriff Shane Nelson of Deschutes County said. Rather, he was struck by three rounds fired by Oregon police, all of which hit him in the back.
“Of particular concern to all of us,” Sheriff Nelson said, was that the FBI agents “did not disclose their shots to investigators.” Indeed, apparently the two agents present involved denied having fired any shots at all on two separate occasions.
In a statement, FBI special agent in charge Greg Bretzing said, “The question of who fired these shots has not been resolved. Upon learning this, and given the FBI presence on scene, I immediately contacted our Inspection Division which notified the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General which is currently investigating this matter.”
Also on Monday, investigators released a video of the shooting filmed by one of the occupiers, Shawna Cox, from inside the truck Finicum was driving. Apparently, he can be heard taunting the police and FBI, daring them to “shoot me.” From the Times:
In the recording, Mr. Finicum sits in the driver’s seat of a truck, wearing a cowboy hat. While stopped, he heckles authorities. “You do as you damn well please, we’re not going anywhere,” he yelled. “You can go ahead and shoot me, put the bullet through the head.”
Pop music plays in the background. Then Mr. Finicum is seen driving away from troopers, and the passengers attempt to crouch down and make phone calls. The camera shakes, and three shots are heard. The vehicle then stops after veering off the road and hitting a snowbank. Mr. Finicum gets out and the video captures his words: “Go ahead and shoot me. You’re going to have to shoot me.”
The fact that the FBI agents have been less than forthcoming regarding their involvement in the shooting will only add to the occupiers’ supporters’ speculation that Finicum’s death was unjust. “I know that under the Constitution the men who shot my husband to death, while he was surrendering, are entitled to due process of law——but they are not entitled to walk free and not have to face the same legal process that is a barrier to you or to me,” Jeanette Finicum, Finicum’s widow, said in a statement.
“They shot my husband, they left him lying in the snowbank—-no medical assistance, no charges, no arraignment, no preliminary hearing, no indictment, and no trial by a jury, —- and should they just walk free? It just is not right.”
So far, twenty-five people have been arrested and charged for their involvement in the Malheur occupation.