Citing a routine shooting investigation, law-enforcement officials in Oregon on Wednesday refused to discuss the fatal shooting of an anti-government occupier at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
At a morning press conference involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, and the Oregon State Police, officials offered few details about the exchange of gunfire that allegedly killed a militia spokesperson. The officials said they were unable to disclose more details because of the militant’s refusal to evacuate the wildlife refuge, which is federal property.
Relatives of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an Oregon occupier originally from Arizona, say that he was the man killed during Tuesday’s raid. Government officials have yet to confirm the deceased person’s identity pending the results of the medical examiner’s report.
Police arrested seven other people, including Ammon Bundy, the 40-year-old leader of the group that has occupied the wildlife refuge since Jan. 2.
All but one of those arrested were expected to make their first appearance in federal court at 1:30pm PT Wednesday. The first appearance date for the seventh individual, who was apprehended in Arizona, has not yet been set.
Supporters of the occupation claim that LaVoy was shot in the face by police while his hands were in the air and that there were six witnesses to this shooting.
Michele Fiore, a local politician and a vocal supporter of the occupiers, claimed Tuesday night that LaVoy was “murdered with his hands up.”
My heart & prays go out to LaVoy Finicum's family he was just murdered with his hands up in Burns OR.Ryan Bundy has been shot in the arm— Councilwoman Michele Fiore (@VoteFiore) January 27, 2016
“I will say that the armed occupiers were given ample opportunities to leave peacefully,” Greg Bretzing, the FBI special agent in charge, said at the news conference. “They were given the opportunity to negotiate. As outsiders to Oregon, they were given the opportunity to return to their homes and have their grievances heard through legal and appropriate means. They chose, instead, to threaten the very America they profess to love with violence, intimidation and criminal acts.”
“Let me be clear,” Bretzing continued. “It is fully and unequivocally the behavior and the choices made by the armed occupiers that have led us to where we are today. And, as the FBI and our partners have demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”
It is common for police to withhold information about an ongoing investigation, as is the case in Oregon, where as many as 40 armed occupiers may still be inside the federal buildings. It is also common practice for police to withhold the name of a victim until his or her family members have been contacted and the medical examiner has definitively identified the body.
A Facebook post allegedly authored by LaVoy’s family also claimed that police killed him while his hands were in the air. The post originally read “The war has begun” but was later edited to say “The fight is not over!”
The allegation that LaVoy—who was filmed last week holding a gun outdoors under a blue tarp—was killed while trying to surrender runs contrary to statements that the Mormon rancher previously made to the press.
In an interview with NBC’s Tony Dokoupil on Jan. 5, LaVoy said that he would “absolutely” die before being taken alive.
Pacific Patriots Network, a separate militia supporting the occupation, issued a “stand-by” order to its supporters on Wednesday.
“We are working on maintaining a calm presence in town and are still acting as a buffer between the Refuge and the FBI,” it said in a statement.
Photo via Victor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman