Official claims LaVoy reached for waistband

Official claims LaVoy reached for waistband
Official claims LaVoy reached for waistband
Official claims LaVoy reached for waistband
Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 20:22:28-05

BURNS, Ore. (AP) — A spokesman for the armed occupiers of a wildlife refuge who died in a confrontation with officers earlier this week was shot when he reached for his waistband, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

Robert Finicum died Tuesday when he and other prominent figures in the occupation were stopped by law enforcement officials on a remote road.

Meanwhile, occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were dwindling in number. Four were left Thursday morning. There was a lot of police activity around the refuge Thursday afternoon and it was unclear whether more had left or surrendered.

The FBI said it would hold a news conference later Thursday to address the ongoing situation.

The occupation by ranchers and others began on Jan. 2, and at one point there were a couple of dozen people holed up, demanding that the federal government turn public lands over to local control. But the compound has been emptying out since the arrest of their main leader, Ammon Bundy, and 10 others over the past few days, and with the death of Finicum.

Bundy, Finicum and others were traveling in two vehicles when they were stopped by law enforcement officials. Bundy and four others were arrested during the stop.

A law enforcement official said Thursday that Finicum, who had been acting as a spokesman for the occupiers, was armed and he was shot after reaching toward his waistband multiple times. The official also said Finicum did not have an opportunity to fire any shots.

The official had been briefed on the investigation but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it by name.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office on Thursday confirmed the person shot in the Tuesday confrontation was Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona rancher.

The last occupiers have been posting YouTube videos demanding assurances they would not be arrested.

"We're still stuck here, four of us. They're telling us it's safe to leave, but it's not safe," a spokesman believed to be occupier David Fry said in a video.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the negotiations or the holdouts' demands, saying only that it was trying to "empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible."

Videos posted by the last occupiers show them around a campfire, along with pickup trucks, an American flag, guns, an old car and assorted clutter.

"We want to live. We want to go home peacefully," one of the men, who was not identified, said in a video posted on Thursday. He was also shown dancing outdoors to a country-western tune with a woman identified as his wife.

Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke with the holdouts and identified them as Fry, who is from Ohio, husband and wife Sean and Sandy Anderson of Idaho, and Jeff Banta of Nevada. Fry told the station that Sean Anderson faces a federal arrest warrant.

In one of the videos posted Thursday, the speaker — believed to be Fry — said: "We're asking, just drop the charges and we're willing to go. But if they're not willing to do that, we're all just willing to stay here and see what happens."

All 11 people under arrest have been charged with a felony count of conspiring to impede federal officers from carrying out their duties through force or intimidation. Three of the 11 were arrested Wednesday night when they left the refuge.

Bundy followers have given conflicting accounts of how Finicum died. One said Finicum charged at officers, who then shot him. A member of the Bundy family said Finicum did nothing to provoke the officers.

The FBI has refused to release details of the confrontation.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Bundy said FBI agents told him the shooting was recorded on video. He said he is waiting to review the footage because "questions must be answered."

Bundy also reiterated his appeal to the last holdouts to give up: "Turn yourselves in and do not use physical force."

Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a tense 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights.

The group came to the desert of eastern Oregon in the dead of winter to decry what it calls onerous federal land restrictions and to object to the prison sentences of two local ranchers convicted of setting fires.

In a criminal complaint Wednesday, federal authorities said the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles and was prepared to fight.

The charges against Bundy and others say that the refuge's 16 employees have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence.


Petty reported from Portland. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, in Washington, D.C., Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, and Martha Bellisle and Lisa Baumann in Seattle contributed to this report.