At this point, LaVoy Finicum, one of the spokesmen for the occupiers, who was driving the vehicle in which Ms. Sharp was riding, yelled out the window that they were going to go talk to the sheriff (at the meeting in John Day), or that agents could just shoot him. He told the passengers to get down, and drove forward, precipitating heavy gunfire from the agents, and crashing the vehicle into a snowbank.
Sharp said that Finicum then exited the vehicle, hands in the air, yelling, “Just shoot me then!” A volley of shots rang out, and Finicum fell to his back, hands still over his head, and was shot several more times on the ground, Sharp said.
According to Sharp, agents continued shooting at the car, striking Ryan Bundy in the shoulder as he shielded her on the floorboard, and deploying tear gas before finally taking the rest of the group into custody. She also claims that none of the protesters fired a shot or even touched a gun during the encounter.
The full audio of Victoria Sharp’s account is posted on YouTube, and comes across as very credible.
In interviews during the occupation protest, Finicum, a soft-spoken rancher and father of 11 from Arizona, had insisted that he would rather be killed than "put in a cement box" prison. He said that some things were more important than life, and that freedom was one of those things.
Federal authorities had wisely been taking a hands-off approach to the occupation, denying Bundy and his friends the opportunity for the tense stand-off they seemed to be seeking. Unfortunately, politicians like Oregon's Democrat Gov. Kate Brown, took the occupation as a personal affront and were calling for law enforcement to take more aggressive action to put a stop to the flagrant defiance of federal authority. The result is a martyr for the fringe and escalation of the situation from a nuisance to a volatile and dangerous level. The strategy was clearly to "remove the head of the snake" by capturing the leaders of the occupation, but what if those leaders were the cooler heads that were keeping the protest calm and peaceful?
With the death of Finicum, in circumstances that some are calling murder, a fuse has been lit, and unless authorities can and do quickly produce evidence that their actions were clearly justified, this could blow up in a very ugly way. And it all could have been easily avoided.
Realistically, what harm were the protesters doing? They were occupying buildings of a remote wildlife refuge in a sparsely populated area of the country in the dead of winter. They were making no threats, harming no one, and getting less and less attention from an unsympathetic media. They were not supported by any national or state militia organizations, and their whole agenda had pretty well fizzled.