PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The family of a rancher fatally shot by Oregon State Police during the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge alleges in a federal lawsuit that he was “deliberately executed by a pre-planned government ambush.”
The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland seeks at least $5 million in damages for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s widow and each of their 12 children. The United States of America is listed as a defendant, along with the FBI, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and others.
Finicum served as a spokesman for the group that took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for several weeks in 2016 to oppose federal control of land in the Western U.S.
Investigators determined that state troopers were justified in shooting Finicum after he exited his vehicle at a police roadblock.
‘Out of control agents’
LaVoy Finicum’s widow, Jeanette, told KOIN 6 News by phone on Friday they want “justice and accountability” for his death.
“It is the second anniversary of his murder,” she said. “Our family is feeling the loss, but we are also determined to move forward to find that justice, to make sure the truth comes out and the people who were irresponsible are held accountable.”
She blamed the “out of control agents” for the shooting death of the 59-year-old rancher.
“”This FBI officer, I believe he was the lead officer, he was indicted by the grand jury for lying and tampering with evidence,” she said. “That leads me to wonder what else are they lying about? What else have they tampered with?”
She wants the elected officials held “accountable. We need to hold these people that we put in these jobs accountable for what they choose to do illegally.”
A brief recap of the occupation
Many leaders of the militia group behind the Malheur takeover came to Burns for a march on January 2 in support of local ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond.
The father and son convicted of arson had already served time, but a judge ruled their terms were too short under federal law and ordered them back to prison.
The Hammonds’ new sentences touched a nerve with far right groups who repudiate federal authority.
Among those who traveled to Burns were Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. LaVoy Finicum was among the earliest occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
On day 4, Ammon Bundy said his group wanted the federal government to hand over control of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to local, county and state governments.
The group claimed wildlife refuges are not available for federal oversight.
LaVoy Finicum told members of the media “a lot of good things [were] happening,” at the refuge and spoke vaguely about a plan to keep the government in check.
LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed and militia leaders were arrested on January 26 after the FBI and Oregon State Police intercepted them along Highway 395.
The FBI and OSP arrested: Ammon Bundy, 40, from Emmett, Idaho; Ryan Bundy, 43, from Bunkerville, Nevada; Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada; Shawna Cox, 59, Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana.
Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona was arrested in Burns. Right-wing talk show host Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati was also arrested.
Each person was charged with felony conspiracy to impede U.S. officers from “discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”
Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, turned himself over to FBI agents in Phoenix, Arizona. He was arrested without incident on a federal charge related to the refuge occupation.
Below: The lawsuit filed by the family of LaVoy Finicum