By CHERI ROBERTS for Challenging the Rhetoric
All law enforcement, whether State or Federal, have an obligation to the citizens they protect. That obligation is one of honest transparency when situations unfold so that real facts can be understood and eventfully accepted. In the case of the January 26, shooting of LaVoy Finicum, 5 Federal agents are currently under investigation for non-disclosure of 2 non-lethal shots fired by an agent during the initial exchange at the roadblock; 4 others are alleged to have covered it up after the fact. This is unacceptable, if proven to be true.
Too often those is authority sweep things under the proverbial rug to their own detriment. In a tech-rich and savvy society, separating fact from fiction is tough enough, but when the fiction originates from those in power the shift of distrust is quick and fierce. Honest investigations have no place for deceit and after so many officer involved shootings and other excessive force cases they have an onus to provide transparency to a leery public. Otherwise they and their intentions don’t just become suspect, they are suspect.
But, the internal investigation of the 5 unnamed agents isn’t the only thing that is questionable to some.
According to Oregon’s Deschutes County Sheriff’s statement,
Prior to Ms. Cox’s recording, the two vehicles carrying members of the unlawful armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were stopped to arrest those members for federal felony charges based on the criminal acts arising from that unlawful occupation. The occupants of the first vehicle cooperated with the Oregon State Police and were arrested without incident. The occupation leader, Mr. Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, and Mark McConnell were in this vehicle.
Mr. Finicum was driving the second vehicle. In Mr. Finicum’s truck were Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox and Victoria Sharp. None of them complied with commands with the Oregon State police to cooperate with the arrest process. The Oregon State 5 Police fired one less lethal OC round at the truck, to gain compliance. Mr. Payne then complied with commands from Oregon State Police troopers, got out of Mr. Finicum’s truck and was arrested on federal charges. At that time, Ms. Cox turned on her camera and began recording. This video footage became valuable to the investigators of the Major Incident team.
In Cox’s cell phone video she, Finicum and Bundy demonstrate no interest in surrender while themselves making demands of State and Federal officers on the scene. The women were asked by Finicum if they wanted to exit the vehicle; both declined before Finicum sped off accelerating up to 70 MPH for 1.5 miles before encountering and trying to go around the pre-established roadblock at milepost 51.
The allegation being made online by militia supporters and others watching the case closely is that Finicum sped off because they were being shot at. While normal human nature would support a fight or flight reaction in someone unwilling to turn themselves in, that notion is quickly put to rest by the clear evidence that the 4 remaining SUV occupants do not verbally acknowledge fear because of any shots previously fired, nor mention it at all while sitting in the vehicle for many more minutes nor after they take off and up until after Finicum was shot and the final 3 surrendered one by one.
What is yet to be understood or explained is how long had Finicum’s vehicle been stopped before the that first non-lethal round was fired and was there something specific that triggered it. It must be remembered however, that Finicum did not stop when officials first tried to pull him over as did the driver of the Jeep Ammon Bundy was riding in. By the time the round in question was fired at the first stop, Finicum and the others had already been evading arrest, which is a felony according to Oregon law so therefor a legally justified shot.
It has been widely reported — including by Cox and Sharp, that Payne and Finicum argued after the passengers in A. Bundy’s vehicle was apprehended. It is because Payne wanted to get out that Finicum made the stop in the middle of the highway where the first non lethal shot was fired.
It is worth reminding, we still have no audio of any verbal exchange with authorities or between the vehicle’s occupants; nor any video of actual happenings inside the SUV between the time A. Bundy’s vehicle was stopped while Payne was still inside or any from immediately after Payne exited the vehicle. Much information could be gleaned if there were some available for release.
Had shots been fired at the vehicle at the time of the actual traffic stop and arrests of A. Bundy’s vehicle there would be more of a case for Finicum and company to flee in fear, but that is not what the evidence thus far in the case shows at all.
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