FBI releases Oregon occupier arrest video: What does it reveal?

The FBI released footage of Tuesday night's arrests after claims that the death of occupier LaVoy Finicum was unprovoked.

Peter Henderson/Reuters
Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge for Oregon, speaks at a news conference showing a video of the death of LaVoy Finicum, in Burns, Ore., Thursday. The FBI on Thursday released a video investigators say shows one occupier of an Oregon wildlife refuge reach for his jacket pocket before being shot dead by law enforcement, after speeding away from a traffic stop where the group's leader was arrested. Authorities Mr. Finicum, a rancher from Arizona who acted as a spokesman for the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was armed when he was stopped by police and killed on Tuesday afternoon.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday released video footage of Tuesday's shooting death of the spokesman for a group of armed men who have occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon for nearly a month.

Five of the refuge occupiers, including militant leader Ammon Bundy, were arrested by the Oregon State Police (OSP) and the FBI on Tuesday during a traffic stop, after holing up in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore., since January 2, in protest of the arrest of two area ranchers.  

The newly released footage appears to show a sixth individual reaching inside a jacket, as if reaching for a gun. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum did, in fact, have a loaded gun in an inside pocket, police say.

The FBI is using this footage to counter claims that Mr. Finicum’s subsequent death at the hands of law enforcement officers was unjustified.

Mr. Bundy and the other occupiers were en route to a community meeting in the town of John Day when the FBI was able to corner them on a country road.

The video was shot from the air, and shows two vehicles traveling down the road. Finicum, traveling behind Bundy’s vehicle in a white pickup, attempted to escape the federal law enforcement officers who stopped the occupation’s leader. He was eventually stopped after slamming into a snowbank in an attempt to evade an FBI road block.

Although the video shows Finicum with his hands up as he exits his truck, it also shows him beginning to reach into his pocket, possibly for the loaded weapon he had inside.

FBI special agent Greg Bretzing said, "On at least two occasions, Finicum appears to reach his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket.”

Mr. Bretzing told reporters that, "The FBI and OSP tried to effect these arrests peacefully,” but Finicum’s actions forced their hands. The video shows Finicum falling into the snow. Finicum was carrying a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in his pocket.

The video then shows the arrests of Ryan Bundy, occupation leader Ammon Bundy’s brother, and Shawna Cox after Finicum fell. An unidentified woman was also in the truck, but she was not arrested.

A third occupier, Ryan Payne, left Finicum’s truck at the first traffic stop and attempted to flee. He eventually surrendered to law enforcement officials.

Law enforcement officials say that they were able to give medical aid to Finicum about ten minutes after the shooting occurred, at which point they were confident that all other threats had been addressed.

Eleven people are currently under arrest and have been charged with conspiring to impede federal officers from carrying out their duties through force or intimidation. The charges reference the wildlife refuge’s 16 employees, who have been unable to go to work due to the occupation.

Most other occupiers left the refuge after Bundys’ arrests.

The five occupiers taken into FBI custody are scheduled to appear in court today, as four other militamen remain at the refuge. "The negotiators continue to work around the clock,” according to Bretzing, “to talk to those four people in an effort to get them to come out peacefully."

Despite pleas for their surrender, the four remaining occupiers refuse to leave without assurances that they will not be jailed. Ammon Bundy told them on Thursday, "Turn yourselves in and do not use physical force."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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