Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Shooting of Robert "Lavoy" Finicum / Let's Talk Tactics / Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Regarding the shooting of Robert “Lavoy” Finicum, let’s talk a little bit about tactics.

I, of course, don’t know all the details, or even most for that matter, of what lead up to the take-down of the ‘occupiers’ of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  I think the action taken Tuesday, January 26th, was potentially precipitous – and difficult to explain.  The FBI and other law enforcement agencies transitioned from an extended laissez-faire environment, involving the ‘occupiers,’ to a sudden, armed confrontation – which unfortunately turned deadly.  Of course, there was a lot of dialogue between the FBI and the principals within the Refuge compound prior to the take-down; but, strikingly, in my opinion, there was no gradual tightening of physical pressure on those individuals that were freely going and coming, attending community meetings, collecting supplies and encouraging other like-minded people to join the occupation.

I looked at the FBI ‘take-down,’ several times.  I do not consider this an ‘ambush’ situation as many have described it.  And, for those who haven’t seen it, I attached a link to the FBI video.

The FBI description of the action depicted in the video, in short, was that the vehicle holding Finicum and three other individuals attempted to run a roadblock set up by law enforcement.  Finicum’s vehicle attempted to swerve around the roadblock, going to the left shoulder of the road, nearly ‘running over’ an FBI Agent, before getting stuck in the snow along the shoulder.  Finicum jumped out of the vehicle, yelling, with his hands up, something like “shoot me,”  “shoot me.”  Allegedly, although it’s difficult to see, Finicum reaches toward his left armpit (twice) before being shot down.  He does not brandish a gun.  However, the FBI found later that he had a loaded handgun under his coat – and opine that he was reaching for same.

OK, I’m not going to second guess this.  Finicum had stated publicly that he wouldn’t be taken alive.  He was known to be consistently armed (see picture above).  And, law enforcement, in a split second, exercised their best judgement.  Finicum’s actions were foolish, under the circumstances, and one might even describe them as ‘crazy.’  The FBI’s account, to my knowledge, does not say how many shots were fired – only that the officer who shot Finicum was with the Oregon State Police.

Let’s talk a little bit about the FBI Agent nearly ‘run over’ by Finicum’s vehicle.  What was the Agent doing in a position behind one of the cars used to block the road?  Only in the movies does a law enforcement officer stand behind his car with a fleeing felon’s car barreling down on him.  The video seems to reflect that the FBI Agent made a last second observation that he would soon be crushed under his vehicle if it was rammed by Finicum’s car.  He jumps to his right toward the road’s shoulder.  Then he sees that’s where Finicum’s car is headed; and the Agent tries to jump back.  It appears that the Agent might have been hit, but he was apparently not seriously injured.  He managed to walk away.

The shooting:  The FBI has given the public a rather grainy aerial video.  The OSP, as I understand it, sometimes wear ‘body cams.’  Are they available?  Why weren’t they released?

OK, Finicum jumps from his vehicle.  We see a law enforcement officer coming out of the woods (left side of road).  Finicum is facing away from this officer, towards where he apparently observes or believes the main law enforcement contingent is located (right side of road).  The officer from the woods is holding something, which is either a handgun, maybe a Taser.  Another officer leaves cover on the opposite side of road and approaches Finicum while pointing a handgun.  When shot, Finicum appears to turn somewhat to his left and falls away from the officer who came out of the woods.  Finicum then appears to slightly lift his right arm.  No weapon is observed.

Some might question where the law enforcement personnel were positioned.  An FBI Agent is nearly run down.  Other officers are on both sides of the road, with Finicum between them – a potential cross-fire situation.  Two officers leave cover for no apparent reason to confront Finicum.  Finicum makes an untoward movement and was shot and killed.

True Nelson
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