By Niccolo Baratto
On Jan. 2, 2016, Ammon Bundy, leader of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, took over the complex in eastern Oregon with his group to protest the sentencing of two ranchers. On Jan. 26, Bundy and his men were arrested after a night where local and federal officials stopped him and the other group leaders on a highway.
LaVoy Finicum, one of the driver’s, disobeyed the police as he was chased a mile down the road and ran into a snow bank. When he got out of the car, he surrendered, but he made a move towards his waist where he had a gun and he was shot.
The following day after his arrest, Bundy told everyone else at the Wildlife Refuge to go home. Bundy’s attorneys set up a crowd-funding site to pay his legal bills. However, on Jan. 29, a federal judge said she wouldn’t consider release of any of the 10 defendants in the Multnomah County Jail until the refuge is cleared.
Since Jan. 2 when the group took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, local and federal officials had been observing them. They watched as group members departed and returned from the Wildlife Refuge. They figured out on Jan. 26 that the groups’ top leaders were traveling together and the FBI knew exactly what route they were going to take so they constructed a traffic stop.
Once the group arrived, one of the cars obeyed their command to stop and pull over. There was another car being driven by LaVoy Finicum and he attempted to get away. About a mile down the road, the FBI and state police had set up a roadblock. Finicum attempted to leave the main road, but he ended up running into a snow bank. When Finicum got out of his car, he was ordered to surrender.
They knew he was armed, and when he reached down to his waist, they knew he was about to draw his gun. At this moment, the SWAT team opened fire and killed LaVoy Finicum. Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy’s brother, took a bullet to his arm.
The shooting was captured on video and was published online. In the end, police arrested eight people on the night of Jan. 26.
There is a dispute of whether or not Finicum being shot was the right thing to do. I believe that the true story is that Finicum raised his hands and surrendered as he emerged from the vehicle, but it seems to be clear that he was reaching for his pocket and these police are trained well enough for situations like these. Finicum was walking around with his hands up and then made an abrupt move to his waist. If police had not done anything here, they might have lost one of their own.
Bundy stood in court and told the judge why he and his group took over the Wildlife Refuge.
“I do love this country very, very much. I love the people in it. And my only goal from the beginning was to protect freedom for the people,” Bundy said.
Judge Stacie Beckerman denied bail to Ammon Bundy and four others. Four members of the protest group are still inside the refuge. In a video posted Jan. 29, a member of the group named David Fry said they would leave when they and all defendants were pardoned.
“They just want to separate us and get us all home so they can pick us off one by one at our houses without being stuck together as a group with guns,” Fry said. On Wednesday, Bundy told his followers to leave the refuge, saying “[The fight] is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.”
As stated earlier, I believe that the police made the right decision to shoot LaVoy Finicum in self-defense. There’s only so many arguments that one could make regarding whether or not he was actually reaching for his gun, but in a situation like that when you are surrendering, you must keep your hands in the air and not make an subtle movements towards your holster especially when police knew he was armed.
As for my opinion on Ammon Bundy and his followers who are currently being held in the Multnomah County Jail, I think that he needs to contact the remaining people once again at the Wildlife Refugee and to tell them to clear it because if this doesn’t happen then they won’t ever be considered to be released on bail.