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March 8, 2016

Shooting Investigation Vindicates Troopers, Raises Questions About FBI Actions

lavoyfinicumshootingOregon authorities revealed today the results of their investigation into the fatal shooting of anti-government extremist Robert “LaVoy” Finicum by Oregon state troopers during an attempt by state and federal authorities to arrest many of the ringleaders of the January 2 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

The investigation vindicated the actions of the state troopers who shot Finicum, but revealed that there is a separate misconduct investigation ongoing into some of the FBI agents’ actions at the scene.

On January 26, several weeks into the refuge standoff, Oregon state troopers and agents from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team attempted to conduct a planned traffic stop of two vehicles filled with occupiers on their way to a meeting, so that they could arrest several of the extremists.  Both vehicles initially stopped but the one driven by Finicum subsequently sped off down the road until it crashed into a snowbank after narrowly avoiding running into a law enforcement roadblock.

As captured on video taken by a police helicopter circulating overhead, Finicum almost immediately jumped out of the vehicle.  As Oregon state troopers approached from two directions, Finicum twice reached towards his jacket, as if to pull out a weapon (he did have a weapon there, it was determined). At the second reach, the troopers opened fire on Finicum, fatally wounding him.

After any officer-involved shooting, there is an investigation. In this case, the investigation took on added importance because of the sensitive nature of the situation: anti-government extremists believe that Finicum was deliberately murdered and since his death have energetically tried to turn him into a martyr for the “Patriot” movement cause, creating a risk of future violence.  Indeed, on the weekend before the investigation results were released, anti-government activists staged nearly 50 rallies across the country to protest his death.

The Oregon investigation concluded that the two troopers who had fired shots at Finicum were justified in so doing, because the troopers believed Finicum was about to injure or kill someone.  Another trooper, who had fired three shots at Finicum’s truck as it was about to hit the roadblock, was also vindicated.

However, in a surprising revelation, authorities announced that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of five FBI agents present at the scene of the shooting.  The state investigation uncovered that one FBI agent allegedly fired two shots during the incident, then allegedly subsequently denied to investigators that he had fired his weapon.  Neither shot hit Finicum. The other agents under investigation reportedly may have helped cover for the first agent. It is not clear when this second investigation will be complete.

The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was heavily criticized in the 1990s for actions and decisions its agents had taken at armed standoffs in Idaho and Texas involving extremists or fringe groups, but it has not had any controversies in recent years.

The admission of possible FBI misconduct will unfortunately provide more ammunition for anti-government extremists attempting to use Finicum’s death to stoke anti-government anger.  This in turn may increase the risk that right-wing extremists may engage in acts of violence out of some sort of desire for retribution. Thus the news of possible FBI misconduct—never welcome under any circumstances—was particularly disturbing in this context.

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March 4, 2016

Multi-State Indictments Bring Bundy-Related Arrests To 38

Updated March 22, 2016, to reflect additional charges and defendants.

In early March, federal prosecutors in Las Vegas announced charges against 14 anti-government extremists from a variety of states in connection with a 2014 armed standoff between the federal government and supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy at Bundy’s ranch.  Prosecutors added additional defendants later in the month.  As of March 22, 19 people have been indicted for that confrontation, including Bundy himself and four of his sons.

Many of those indicted on charges related to the Bundy Ranch standoff, or present at that standoff but not indicted, have also separately been indicted in connection with the more recent armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, in January-February 2016. This includes alleged ringleader Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, both sons of Cliven Bundy.  As of March 22, 26 people have been indicted on various charges related to the Malheur standoff.

Almost all of the organizers and many of the participants of the 2016 standoff in Oregon had taken part in the earlier standoff in Nevada.

The below chart shows the 38 people indicted so far in the two armed confrontations. More indictments may be forthcoming.

Bundy Standoffs Chart 3-22-16



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January 27, 2016

Oregon Standoff: Developments

  • On January 2, a loosely organized group of armed anti-government extremists led by Ammon Bundy seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters buildings located near the town of Burns in remote southeastern Oregon.  They later named themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.oregon-standoff-arrest
  • On Tuesday, January 26, Ammon Bundy and several others were arrested by federal and state law enforcement officers during a traffic stop near John Day, Oregon. LaVoy Finicum, who served as a spokesman for the group, was killed during the arrest; another occupier was slightly injured.  Two others were arrested in Burns, Oregon, while another occupier turned himself in to authorities in Arizona.
  • Those arrested so far include Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, Brian Cavalier, Pete Santilli, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, and Jon Ritzheimer. For background information on all of the occupiers who were arrested or killed, as well as many of the other remaining occupiers and allies who has been at the wildlife refuge headquarters, see: The Occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.
  • Although some occupiers have reportedly left the Malheur refuge headquarters, others remain.


4:15 PM (EST) oregon call to violenceOccupier Sean Anderson cradling an assault rifle and urging people to come to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appeared on a YouTube live stream earlier today and said: “There are no laws in this United States now. This is a free for all Armageddon. Any leo, or military, or law enforcement, or feds, that stand up and fuck their oath, don’t abide by their oath are the enemy. If they stop you from getting here … KILL THEM!”

3:23 PM (EST) Dave Fry, an Ohio resident still occupying the wildlife refuge after the arrests of several cohorts yesterday made anti-Semitic comments in his live feed at the refuge. Fry spoke about “fake Jews,” a term used by a number of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists who believe that many people who call themselves Jews today are not truly Jewish but are descended from a race of people called the Khazars.  Drumming up anti-Semitic myths, Fry claimed that “fake Jews” believe “they’re superior to people,” are “evil” and “do a lot of evil things with their money.”

3:10 PM (EST) Occupier Victoria Sharp’s audio account claiming LaVoy Finicum was murdered has been shared nearly 3,500 times on Facebook alone, leaving aside other places, as extremists attempt to turn Finicum into a martyr for the anti-government causes.

1:31 PM (EST) Occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have begun using heavy machinery – apparently either to dig a trench or to build an earthen barrier, presumably to impede entry.

1:26 PM (EST): The current leader of the Oregon standoff appears to be Jason Patrick, who took over the role from Blaine Cooper early Wednesday. Patrick, who was at the Bundy Ranch in 2014, is an anti-government extremist and Three Percenter known in his home state of Georgia for his outbursts against law enforcement and court personnel, and for his attempts to bring video cameras into courtrooms.

12:51 PM (EST): Reacting to the evolving situation in Oregon, the anti-government extremist Pacific Patriots Network issued a “Stand By” order to their members and followers. “Cooler heads must prevail,” they announced. “We do not wish to inflame the current situation and will engage in open dialogue until all the facts have been gathered.” Based on previous, similar incidents, this is the expected response from most organized groups, who tend to understand the futility of engaging the federal government’s firepower. Individuals tend to be more volatile (and less predictable) in these situations.

12:28 PM (EST): Right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck issued a statement on Facebook Wednesday morning, writing that he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life” in Oregon, but that the protesters at Malheur should not have been armed. Because they were so vocal about their commitment to using violence, as necessary, to defend their beliefs, Beck argues, “The[ir] cause was lost before it began.”

11:52 AM (EST): As tensions increase, so too does the apparent rhetoric by some of the standoff participants. During a live feed of the standoff on YouTube, a male can clearly be heard saying “There will be a shootout… None of them are safe. When I get outta here, I’m gonna hunt them down!”

11:45 AM (EST): Michele Fiore, a Nevada state assembly person, has taken to Twitter to repeat the extremist claim that LaVoy Finicum was murdered by the government. Fiore is an ally of Cliven Bundy, the anti-government extremist whose standoff with authorities in 2014 in Nevada inspired his sons to seize the wildlife refuge in Oregon.

11:31 AM (EST): Sup­port­ers of the siege at wildlife refuge in Ore­gon, includ­ing Twit­ter users as well as wlavoy memehite suprema­cists on Storm­front , are cir­cu­lat­ing an image of LaVoy Finicum in an attempt to turn the extremist into a right-wing martyr. Finicum allegedly was killed while charging law enforcement officers who were attempting to arrest Finicum and other occupiers. The meme repeats an extremist claim circulating on the Internet that Finicum was mur­dered while unarmed and with his hands in the air.

11:20 AM (EST): The remaining extremists at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff are still defiant and  not ready to surrender to authorities. Duane Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon, and off and on participant in the standoff, said on Facebook that “now the wolves are at the gate, Were [sic] are those Oath keepers.” He is referring to the anti-government extremist group that often injects itself into conflicts. More information on the Oath Keepers.

10:17 AM (EST): Some anti-government extremists are already attempting to portray Finicum as a martyr; the risk of retaliation by anti-government extremists, locally or elsewhere, against the federal government is fairly substantial.

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