The FBI Released Footage of the Shooting of an Oregon Militia Leader

Better to be dead than “in a cell.”


The FBI released footage Thursday night of an Oregon State Police trooper shooting LaVoy Finicum, one of the leaders of an armed militia that on earlier in January, took over and occupied several buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in rural Oregon.

The 26-minute video, shot from an FBI airplane, shows the events that took place on January 26 when Ammon Bundy, one of the militia leaders, was arrested with several other militia members when they were traveling to a meeting in a town north of the refuge (we’ve cued it to just before the confrontation). The FBI and the Oregon State Police had set up a roadblock in order to intercept the two vehicles carrying the militia members.

Greg Bretzing, an FBI special agent, told reporters Thursday night that the Jeep carrying Bundy stopped and the occupants exited and were arrested without incident. Finicum, driving a white truck, initially stopped, and one man exited the back of the truck. But Finicum then sped away. As his vehicle approached a road block, the video shows the truck veering off the left side of the road.

“He nearly hit an FBI agent,” Bretzing said, according to the Guardian, before stalling in the snow next to the road. Finicum can be seen exiting with his hands up. He walked around next to the truck briefly before his hands appeared to lower to his sides. “Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket,” Brentzing told reporters. “He did have a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in that pocket. At this time OSP troopers shot Finicum. It was a reckless action that resulted in consequences.”

Brentzing added that the FBI decided to release the video to counter “inaccurate” and “inflammatory” accusations that the FBI had shot Finicum while his hands were up. “We feel it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency,” he said.

Finicum, a 55-year-old rancher from Arizona, told MSNBC on January 5 that he was a peaceful person, but if the FBI or any authority pointed a gun at him, he’d point one back. Sitting in a rocking chair under a blanket, with a rifle across his lap and a tarp across his back, he said, “Don’t point a gun at me. You don’t point a gun at someone unless you’re going to shoot them.”

The reporter asked if he believed it was better to be dead “than in a cell.”

“Absolutely,” Finicum replied.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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