by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium Online
At long last, after a month of speculation, an amateur cell phone video shot from within the Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s truck reveal new details about his tragic death at the hands of the Oregon State Patrol.
Finicum, a 55-year old Arizona Rancher, had been participating in the armed militia take-over of the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in Oregon for over a month. Ranchers and militia had taken over the reserve in protest of fellow ranchers being taken back into custody to complete prison terms for arson. Finicum and other members of the militia were on their way to a public meeting in the city of John Day, north of the reserve when they were stopped on a narrow wooded road by officers of the Oregon State Patrol. Occupants of another vehicle in convoy with Finicum, not pictured by the cell phone video or the FBI drone video, were stopped and the occupants arrested. Those people were referred to by the people in the Finicum vehicle as their conversation on the cell phone video shows.
Finicum, a passionate participant in the militia movement, is shown in the video arguing with police and refusing to come out of the vehicle. He explained to the state patrol deputies that he was on his way to a meeting with the Sheriff and that the deputies were welcome to follow him. He even encouraged the officers to shoot him saying, “you can do what you want to do”.
In light of this new video I think there is ample evidence that LaVoy did not help his situation by arguing with police and refusing to surrender to the arresting officers. He is culpable in part in his own death and the endangerment of the people in his vehicle whose safety he was responsible for. While I have plenty of criticism for the late Mr. Finicum, there is enough to go around. Even though Finicum refused to stop for the deputies, it is not clear to me that the state patrol officers had license to use the level of force that they did under the circumstances. The Oregon State Patrol is partially responsible for elevating the level of violence to a new level without justification. While the Bundy/Finicum militia was costing the state a lot of money due to their involvement in the standoff, no one at that point had been threatened or shot. No one was in any danger of being shot until the State Patrol opened fire.
And there may be case law supporting this position based on US Supreme Court precedent and the FBI released drone video. Another blog, analyzing the drone video asserts that the State Patrol in this case employed an illegal blind corner blockade that unnecessarily endangered the occupants of the vehicle and the officers themselves. The driver, Finicum, at that point had been guilty of nothing more than misdemeanor fleeing an officer, but as he rounded the blind corner, the driver would have been unable to stop in time and had two very difficult decisions to make in a split second, either to ram into the vehicles of the state patrol barricade or to swerve off to the side to avoid a collision. Finicum chose to swerve off.
From the video it is clear that an officer of the state patrol fired needlessly into the vehicle as the driver swerved to the side and, as the drone video shows, left cover in order to fire those shots, proving that he had no real reason to fear his own safety, but was only attempting to wound the driver to get him to stop.
I think these two videos, shown together, prove that Finicum showed a lack of judgment in his refusal to give into the proper authorities and that the tragedy was amplified by actions of the state patrol officers who used a level of force that was unjustified in this case. I think these videos taken together could be used in a civil law suit against law enforcement, and with the Supreme Court precedent as a baseline, officers who fired on Finicum and the truck, endangering the passengers within, could find themselves in hot water legally very soon.
It should be noted here that The American Millennium does not condone threats of violence against law enforcement officers. Nor are we here to call for armed revolution against the government. Our flawed political system is still the best on Earth and there are legal means to fight injustice that do not include bloody revolution. We should exhaust those means before a revolution is even thought of. That said, I have sympathy for the ranchers who feel they have been unfairly targeted by the government and their rights curtailed. I feel their frustration. The Federal government owns far too much state land and the states and their legislatures should demand it back. Frustrated ranchers are free to call their congressman, governors and senators and petition the government with their grievances. They are not allowed to revolt until all legal means at their disposal are exhausted.
The Bureau of Land Management as a law enforcement organization is quickly becoming as reprehensible in their actions as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was in the ’90s when the Ruby Ridge and Waco Texas incidents were going on.
Law enforcement, with the Black Lives Matter situation going on, is drawing a lot of criticism and coverage as of late, often unfairly. I think that the issue of police brutality that does happen from time to time should be taken into account in context one case at a time. Officers who go over the line should be fired and prosecuted.
But, law enforcement officers are extremely hard to prosecute and that leads to a feeling that they are above the law. Juries should take a fair and balanced view when dealing with these incidents and come to reasoned judgments regarding fault based on evidence. The government should be more transparent in their dealings with the public, remembering who it is they work for. A good show of faith now would be for the FBI to release the Finicum autopsy to show the public how he died. They should also release photos and analysis of the truck Finicum was driving.
For Further reading:
Deadman’s Roadblock: http://freedomfromgovernment.org/deadmans-roadblock-shocks-the-consience/
Officers Breaking Cover showing LaVoy was no threat: http://freedomfromgovernment.org/282-2/
Washington has no right to own western states’ land: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/apr/28/andrew-napolitano/napolitano-washington-lacks-constitutional-right-o/