Even after the FBI released a 25 minute video showing the events leading to the fatal shooting of militiaman LaVoy Finicum, many continue to disagree about what happened in the seconds before shots were fired.
We analyzed the video with former Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney Virginia Bond and retired Nampa Police officer Victor Rodriguez.
Rodriguez says his initial reaction after watching the video was “that [Finicum] was trying to get his gun out” in the seconds before he was fatally shot by an Oregon State Police officer.
“In this one you can clearly see [Finicum] turning around and making a gesture of aggression toward the officer,” Virginia Bond said. “If I was scanning this and screening it for charges that probably would be the most important component.”
While examining the footage, Bond says there are questions the ongoing investigation will have to answer.
“What was he saying? What was the officer saying to him? And I’d like to see that officer’s interview about seeing a weapon,” Bond said. “I don't know if it was justified until you see the gun. I mean, you don't have to have it pointed at you, just coming out, so that part we can't see in this video.”
When asked, “Do you think this person could've seen where he was reaching from behind?” Victor Rodriguez replied, “Yes, it looks like it, because he kind of turned [toward that officer], so it gives him a better view than us.”
According to authorities Finicum did have a loaded handgun on the inside left portion of his jacket.
“That makes a huge difference,” Bond said. “I mean in the long run, you're saying it was justified. But at the moment was it justified? That's what we're looking at as officers.” We then asked, “What if he hadn't gotten it out of the pocket yet?” to which Bond replied, “Even part way, just to see it was a weapon. I would never let anybody point something at me. They would be dead before that.”
Rodriguez says he believes officers involved had no choice but to fire after Finicum lowers his hands and appears to reach toward his waistband.
“At that point it becomes survival by the officers and he caused his own death by doing that action,” Rodriguez said. “The only action that the officer had to do, could do, was save his own life which means shoot [Finicum].”
Rodriguez says it appears Finicum knew what he was doing, taking a tactical approach when finally forced to face law enforcement.
“He's acting like he's going to give up then he doesn't; he lets the officer get closer to him.” Rodriguez said. “Once the officer gets closer to him he goes in for his weapon. That to me is a ploy.”
Both experts agree the events leading up to the traffic stop are monumental - illegally occupying a federal wildlife refuge for weeks, making it clear to government officials they’re heavily armed and are unwilling to leave unless certain demands are met.
“These people had been in contact with law enforcement for weeks and there's been a lot of tension in the air, there's a lot of ammunition going, there's a lot of guns floating around, so everybody's on red alert,” Bond said.