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FBI Releases Aerial Surveillance Video Of Refuge Occupier's Death

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.

Robert "LaVoy" Finicum speaking to journalists earlier this month at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore.
Rick Bowmer / AP
Robert "LaVoy" Finicum speaking to journalists earlier this month at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore.

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.