Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard / AP Photo

FBI: Militia member who was killed had gun

The FBI video of the death of Robert Finicum appears to show him reaching for jacket; loaded gun was found a pocket

The FBI released video Thursday of the shooting death of a spokesman for the armed occupiers of a wildlife refuge that appears to show the man reaching into his jacket before he fell into the snow. The FBI said the man had a loaded gun in his pocket.

Authorities showed the video at a news conference to counter claims that the man killed in the Tuesday confrontation on a remote Oregon high  country road — Robert "LaVoy" Finicum — did nothing to provoke officers.

During that confrontation, the FBI and Oregon State Troopers arrested five main figures in the occupation, including Ammon Bundy, their leader.

The video, shot by the FBI from an airplane, shows Bundy's vehicle stopped by police on a road.  A white truck driven by Finicum was stopped but took off, with officers in pursuit. The video shows Finicum's vehicle plowing into a snowbank when encountering a roadblock.

A man identified as Finicum gets out of the truck. At first, he has his hands up, but then he reaches into his pocket and he falls into the snow.

"On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket," said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge for the FBI in Portland.

"He did have a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the pocket," he said.

Bretzing also said Finicum's truck nearly hit an FBI agent before it got stuck in the snow.

"Actions have consequences," Bretzing said. "The FBI and OSP tried to effect these arrests peacefully."

Meanwhile, Bretzing, said Thursday evening that the bureau believes four people remain on the refuge. 

"There has been some media reporting that the situation at the refuge is resolved," he said at a press conference. "That is NOT true. Again, we still believe there are occupiers on the refuge. The negotiators continue to work around the clock to talk to those four people in an effort to get them to come out peacefully."

Earlier in the day, one of the last holdouts in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge said Thursday that the handful of occupiers who remain will leave if they receive assurances none of them will be arrested.

In a video posted on the YouTube channel DefendYourBase that the group has been using to issue updates during the nearly four-week occupation, a speaker, believed to be David Fry, said the occupiers have been told by authorities that "out of five people left here, four of us are allowed to leave."

The FBI had no immediate comment on the demand. It has said only that it is trying to "empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible."

Eight members of the armed anti-government group were arrested Tuesday and three more on Wednesday. Their jailed leader, Ammon Bundy, on Wednesday urged the remaining protesters to abandon the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building that they have occupied, where they are surrounded by federal agents.

After Bundy made his first court appearance in Portland on Wednesday, his attorney, Mike Arnold, read this statement from his client: “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is now in the courts.” Bundy also urged federal authorities to let his comrades leave the compound without being prosecuted. 

On Wednesday evening, the FBI and Oregon State Police issued a statement saying they had arrested Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, and Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, around 3:30 p.m. A few hours later, 43-year-old Jason S. Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia, was arrested. The FBI said the men turned themselves in to agents at a checkpoint on a road near the refuge.

As with Bundy and the seven others arrested a day earlier, officials said the men will each face a felony charge.

In a news conference, the FBI special agent in charge, Greg Bretzing, told occupiers that although they had been given multiple chances to resolve their standoff peacefully, the opportunity remained. He encouraged them to call negotiators for help in leaving and that they should be prepared to identify themselves.

Bretzing said people could leave through checkpoints “where they will be identified.” He said negotiators were available to talk if they have “questions or concerns.” FBI officials said Wednesday night, in addition to the three men arrested, five people left the refuge through the checkpoints and were released without arrest.

Booking photos of (clockwise from top left) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Jon Ritzheimer, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne and Joseph O'Shaughnessy (Photos by Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office / Reuters)

Patrick, who remained at the refuge after the arrests and acted as the spokesman for the holdouts, told Reuters by phone on Wednesday that some protesters were leaving, but rejected the word “surrender.”

“I don’t know what surrendering looks like,” he said. “They’re walking through the checkpoint and going home. That's what I've heard unless I'm being lied to.”

 A law enforcement official said Thursday that Finicum, who had been acting as a spokesman for the occupiers, was armed and he was shot after reaching toward his waistband multiple times. The official also said Finicum did not have an opportunity to fire any shots.

The official had been briefed on the investigation but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it by name.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office on Thursday confirmed the person shot in the Tuesday confrontation was Finicum.

Initially, citing the investigation, authorities declined to say what led to the fatal shooting and it was activists who identified Finicum. Bundy's brother, Ryan, was wounded during the traffic stop.

The arrested protesters were each charged in U.S. District Court in Portland felony counts of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”

The criminal complaint stresses that point. It states that the 16 employees at the wildlife refuge “have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property.”

The defendants were ordered held without bail until a detention hearing set for Friday.

Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in Portland unsealed a criminal complaint that said the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles and that they were prepared to fight at the refuge or in the nearby town of Burns.

A decades-long dispute

The takeover at Malheur that started Jan. 2 was a flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over the U.S. government's control of millions of acres of territory in the West. Protesters say they are defending the Constitution.

The FBI said gunshots rang out after officers stopped a car carrying protest leader Ammon Bundy and others near the refuge. Activists said Finicum, an Arizona rancher who acted as a spokesman for the occupiers, was killed.

Federal officials said they had probable cause to arrest Finicum, who told NBC News earlier this month that he would rather die than be detained.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday, the Finicum family appeared to forgive officials for his death, but urged the occupiers to “press forward.”

Bundy and four other senior members were taken into custody after the confrontation along Highway 395, near the reserve in northeastern Oregon around 4:25 p.m. local time, the FBI said.

A sixth person was arrested by Oregon State Police in Burns about 90 minutes later. The FBI said a seventh person was later arrested, Peter Santilli, 50, a journalist who live-streamed events at the refuge.

The FBI said they also arrested an eighth person in Peoria, Arizona, in relation to the occupation. The man, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32, was arrested without incident when he surrendered himself to police.

All of those arrested face federal charges of conspiracy to use force, intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties, the FBI said.

Patrick likened Finicum’s death to the killing of Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old black boy fatally shot by police outside a Cleveland recreation center in 2014. “The government can kill who they want for whatever reason they want, with impunity,” Patrick said. The officers in that case were not charged. 

Asked how the occupiers would respond to law enforcement entering the refuge, he did not indicate a clear plan. “I don’t know what to tell you, but if somebody saying ‘peaceful resolution’ comes in and points guns at me …” he said, trailing off.

Faced with a continued standoff, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday vowed to work with authorities to end the occupation as soon as possible. “My office will continue collaborating with law enforcement partners to resolve the situation and hold wrongdoers accountable,” she said.

Wire services

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