Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Shooting death of LaVoy Finicum justified, necessary, prosecutor says

The investigation into the death of LaVoy Finicum, killed during the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, shows that the three fatal shots fired by Oregon State Police were justified “and, in fact, necessary,” Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said Tuesday. In total, eight shots were fired, though flash-bang grenades and gas projectiles were also deployed to ensure three remaining occupants in Finicum’s truck surrendered peacefully, the investigation showed. Authorities dismissed accounts that law officers fired more than 100 rounds of bullets, suggesting that the flash-bang grenades and projectiles may have been mistaken for gunfire. The police provided reporters with video of Finicum’s truck barreling at an estimated 70 mph toward a roadblock of two trucks forming a V in the middle of the road. A third vehicle was parked behind those trucks. The video reveals a fast exchange of words between Finicum behind the wheel and a female passenger inside the truck. “Hang on!” Finicum tells the occupants inside the truck as a shot is fired, apparently by authorities. He is driving the truck. “OK, they’re shooting,” the woman says. Finicum was driving one of two vehicles authorities tracked leaving the Malheur refuge January 26. One — carrying Ammon Bundy, the protest leader whose father, Cliven, was at the center of a similar armed standoff in 2014 — pulled over to a stop, and the people inside came out peacefully. The officers believed Finicum “planned to crash through or otherwise evade the roadblock” and could injure or kill law enforcement officers at the scene, Norris said. They fired at the truck three times but hit no one inside the truck. Just before Finicum arrived at the roadblock, he veered left into a snowbank at an estimated 50 mph, narrowly missing a federal agent who was trying to get out of the way, the video showed. As Finicum exited his vehicle with a loaded Ruger 9 mm handgun in the left-hand interior pocket of his jacket, he was instructed to get on the ground three times, Deschutes County Sheriff L. Shane Nelson said. The video also shows Finicum exiting the truck. “Stay down,” the woman tells the two other people inside the truck. Then gunfire is heard. “Are they shooting him?” the woman asks. A transcript provided Tuesday shows the exchange between Finicum and officers after he exits his truck. “Go ahead and shoot me,” Finicum tells the officers on at least four occasions. “Get on the ground,” officers tell Finicum on at least two occasions, according to the transcript. “You’re gonna have to shoot me,” Finicum tells the officers at least twice. Despite Finicum defying those orders and reaching toward the pocket containing the gun, two nearby state police officers did not immediately open fire, and a third officer attempted to move in with a Taser, Nelson said. Finicum was out of range of the Taser, he said. When Finicum reached for his pocket a third time, two troopers opened fire, hitting him three times in the back — in the left shoulder, below the neck and on the right side of his lower back...more

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