21st Century Wire
Last night, the standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Oregon took a rather ugly turn which resulted in one man shot dead and another wounded by federal agents.
The latest incident took place as two vehicles carrying protesters, led by Ammon Bundy, were en route to a community meeting in the nearby town of John Day in Oregon.
According to numerous mainstream media reports and local media outlet Oregon Live, ‘federal sources’ are telling the media that only “3 shots were fired”, but a new eye witness testimony by one of the vehicle’s passengers tells a very different story.
While the mainstream media is still referring to the event as “a shoot-out”, according to this latest eye witness account at the scene – no shots were fired by vehicle passengers.
According to eyewitness Victoria Sharp, 18 yrs old, from Kansas, who was a passenger in the same truck driven by Arizona rancher Robert ‘Lavoy’ Finicum, along with Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne and Shawna Cox – dozens of federal vehicles and countless agents were waiting for the group, pre-positioned at a point along the isolated rural Highway 395, before intercepting the group and detaining 8 persons, including brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who were booked into Multnomah County Jail early this morning.
Sharp confirmed that the passengers never drew weapons and attempted to get out of their vehicles before federal agents fired “at least 120 shots altogether” at the vehicle carrying her party.
Federal agents fired their first shots at passenger and militia leader, Ryan Payne, as he attempted to make contact with the agents by sticking his head and hands out of the window, at which point Payne got back inside the vehicle.
Payne then exited the truck and was detained before driver Finicum advanced the vehicle further down the road before sliding into a snow bank on the side of the road.
A second vehicle, a Jeep with passengers including Ammon Bundy, had already been stopped by authorities, with its all passengers taken into custody with no one harmed.
A third vehicle driving approximately one mile ahead at the front of the convoy, carrying Sharp’s mother and young siblings, was allowed to pass through the police roadblocks without incident.
After crashing into the snow bank on the side of the highway, the driver, 54 yr old Arizona resident, Lavoy Finicum (photo, above), then exited the vehicle, visibly upset and with his hands in the air, before being gunned down by federal agents. Finicum was walking with his hands in the air, daring federal agents, “Just shoot me! Just shoot me” – at which point the agents shot him dead. The witness testimony indicates that his hands were still in the air.
Numerous ‘red dots’ from lasers could be seen pointed on the passengers by federal marksmen, in what was described by this witness as an “ambush” by federal authorities. Sharps said, “I had 20 lasers on me when I got out of the car.”
She also confirmed that Ryan Bundy was shot and wounded in the arm by federal agents was shot while still inside the truck.
Federal forces then followed-up by firing CS tear gas rounds around the vehicle, apparently in an attempt to further disable the remaining passengers.
At least 40 federal vehicles, as well as many armed federal agents including some seen emerging from the surrounding forest along the highway, should leave little doubt as to the scale and nature of the operation.
Listen to Ms. Sharp’s harrowing testimony here:
According to local media outlet Oregon Live reports: “The highway was blocked for a 40-mile stretch between Burns and John Day. Police were stationed near Seneca, a small city of 200 south of John Day, with long guns. They said they didn’t know how long the roadblock would be in place. Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was there.”
IMPORTANT NOTE (UPDATE 1-30-16): According to this recent report by Pedro Quintana from Central Oregon local affiliate News Channel 21, Sheriff Palmer was not at the federal roadblock and had no prior knowledge of the FBI ambush of the Bundy convoy. According to the chat session relayed in Pedro Quintana’s report, Palmer was asked in an online chat, “Did you witness Lavoy shooting, or no?”, to which Palmer replies, “NO… The shooting from what I hear was close to 4 and I heard of it at about 5:45pm.” News 21continued:
“Palmer responded he had no knowledge of anything about the plans or who was coming to the public meeting. He went on to say that the “FBI and Oregon State Police know me, they shared nothing with me and they know I wouldn’t have allowed it.”
Earlier mainstream media reports that Palmer was present at the FBI roadblock would lead Bundy supporters to believe that Palmer had betrayed the Bundys and Lavoy Finicum. One the main sources, if not the main source of the original Sheriff Palmer controversy appears to be none other than Oregon Live staff writer Les Zaitz who has slipped-in this key piece of line into his report which which says:
“They said they didn’t know how long the roadblock would be place. Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was there.”
Not surprisingly, this has set-off a virtual backlash online against the Grant County Sheriff, as evidenced by the following screen shot of Google search link found here:
Is this a case of media dirty tricks by Oregon Live? Certainly, Oregon Live’s coverage of Burns events has been skewed from the beginning, and have been running character assassination pieces against Malheur occupiers in a effort to discredit the protest. Sheriff Palmer is clearly on record as being sympathetic to the Hammond Ranch protest and had recently opened up a constructive dialogue with the Bundys and occupiers from Malheur Wildlife Refuge. If Pedro Quintana’s News 21 report is indeed accurate, then one might conclude that Oregon Live put out a piece of disinformation, likely designed to further divide the protest movement and create dissension in militia and activist ranks.
However, until Sheriff Glenn Palmer comes out and issues clear statement declaring where he was – and where he wasn’t, then people will continue to speculate what really happened.
(END OF UPDATE)
Reporter Les Zaitz from Oregon Live, a key source of mainstream media information from the Refuge protest, did not give prominence to Victoria Sharp’s account in his article, but instead chose to lead with and highlight the secondhand account of the other vehicle’s passenger Mark McConnell who claimed that unarmed victim Lavoy Finicum “charged at law enforcement” before being shot. Zaitz’s article even admits that McConnell’s vehicle was at least 200 yards behind the truck driven by Finicum.
Incredibly, Oregonian Zaitz appears to favor McConnell’s account on the basis that his account has “matched accounts from law enforcement sources.” McConnell issued his version of events after being released from law enforcement custody, where he spoke for 2 hours with federal agents.
Tabloid news site Raw Story also ran with a similar narrative with a deceptive headline that read “Eyewitnesses knock down conspiracy theories about LaVoy Finicum…“, referring to secondhand accounts by McConnell and colleague, Melvin Lee.
As it turns out, Mark McConnell did not actually see the shooting, and instead had ‘pieced together’ his account, as evidenced by his own statement later posted online:
…”going off of what Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne were saying, which were in the vehicle, um, Visually, I seen the truck take off, you know, now any time someone takes off in a vehicle away from law enforcement after they exercise a stop, it’s typically considered an act of aggression and foolish. Payne said while they were sitting there and they were clearing my vehicle that him and LeVoy had a heated discussion…”
“…but he took off they had to chase him, and from what Shawna Cox was saying… from inside of his truck that when he exited the vehicle… he charged after law enforcement….”
“What I do know to be true, from what Payne said and what Shawna said taken pieces here and pieces there and from what I witnessed, um, I didn’t see the shooting, um, he was not on his knees, he was not, none of that non sense, that was a miscommunication on somebody else’s part but he went after em, he charged em.”
Here, McConnell is, in effect, issuing a proxy statement on behalf of Victoria Sharp’s fellow passengers, Shawn Cox and Ryan Payne. This is hardly admissible, as both Cox and Payne are currently in federal custody and are not able to verify the accuracy of McConnell reiteration. And yet, mainstream media outlets are propping-up McConnell’s account, while minimizing Sharp’s.
After speculating about the shooting, McConnell then says, “… I didn’t see it, and I’m not going to speculate on it.”
McConnell is said to have been driving in the rear vehicle with Ammon Bundy and his private security, Brian Cavalier.
UPDATE 1-28-2016: On Wednesday evening, CNN International released a report based on an “anonymous government source” claiming that Finicum was killed by federal agents because he was “reaching towards his waistband.” The Washington Post then re-spun the story, and rather incredibly – is relying on the very same secondhand story presented by Mark McConnell, in a desperate attempt to prop-up the government’s version of events:
“In the moments before he was shot by authorities Tuesday afternoon, Finicum led a high-speed getaway attempt. He then reached for his waistband, prompting authorities to open fire, according to a CNN report.
The report, which cites anonymous law enforcement officials but has not been confirmed by The Washington Post, is corroborated by a statement from an occupier who said he was traveling with Finicum at the time of the traffic stop.”
The fact the media have chosen to label this incident as a “traffic stop” indicates an obvious agenda designed to minimize the obvious – that this was a pre-planned, elaborate ambush by the FBI and Oregon State Police.
This same unnamed “source” cited by CNN is also told the network that the incident was indeed captured on video by the FBI, but that authorities “have not decided whether or not the release the video.” (see more breaking updates on this development below)
This shocking turn of events comes just days after Oregon governor Kate Brown issued what some might consider to be a veiled threat to the protesters and militia, saying that the federal government “must move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable.”
Reports last week indicated that the governor had personally written the White House and President Obama, which specifically addressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey, in which Brown expressed her outrage that Harney County and the state of Oregon was not being recognized for its ‘collaborative achievements’, but rather for “outsiders seeking to exploit and manipulate a local matter for their own agenda.”
According to the FBI’s press release, arrested individuals include:
Ammon Edward Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho
Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah
Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana
Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona
After the federal operation on Highway 395, in a separate incident back at the Wildlife Refuge, YouTube and internet radio personality, Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, approached the venue and walked towards federal agents before being taken into custody.
— Brent Weisberg (@BrentKOIN) January 27, 2016
Those still in detention are scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
According to reports, FBI agents in Phoenix also “made a probable cause arrest of Jon Eric Ritzheimer, age 32, on a federal charge related to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon.”
Jon Ritzheimer, another controversial YouTube personality and former US Marine, appears to have left the Malheur Refuge right before the federal operation to apprehend the protesters, when he returned to his home in Peoria, Arizona.
Back at the Refuge protest site, the FBI are said to be negotiating with remaining 8 to 10 occupiers inside, with reports that most women and minors have already left the site.
Three weeks ago, Finicum, who become the protest’s media spokesperson, made a prophetic statement on camera saying that, “There are things more important than your life, and freedom is one of them.” Watch:
UPDATE 1-28-2016: Any public distrust or skepticism of the federal authorities would immediately be dispelled by speed release of all video footage (with dozens of agents and surveillance, there should have been more than one video feed taken, including body and gun sight cameras) of the event. Whether or not, and how fast this will happen remains to be seen.
UPDATE 1-29-2016 at 01:30PM ET: Due to public pressure and intense speculation about the events of Tuesday evening, and also because of the YouTube recording of eye witness 18 yr old Victoria Sharp, the FBI has released the unedited aerial video footage from Tuesday evening’s incident which took place along Highway 395 here.
According to the official FBI statement: “We feel that it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency.”
The FBI video entitled, “Complete, Unedited Video of Joint FBI and OSP Operation 01/26/2016″, does show the victim Lavoy Finicum exiting the truck awkwardly in at least two feet of snow, and he clearly does not “charge towards” the SWAT team, and his hands are clearly held high above his head as he exits his truck when confronted by a SWAT team, before being shot multiple times by marksmen and falling in the snow. Also, the scale and size of this operation is very evident by the footage, and the apprehension of the protesters was not the result of a mere “traffic stop” as erroneously characterized in multiple mainstream media reports.
On its own, this FBI drone footage would appear to support previous government and media claims by CNN, Washington Post and others that the victim was indeed “reaching towards his waistband” which gave federal and state police justification to unleash deadly force. However, it is still not completely clear from this aerial footage whether or not Finicum was holstered (he is said to normally carry a gun on the right hip, but FBI are claiming he had a 9mm gun in his inside left breast pocket), but also whether or not he lowered his arms before, or after he was shot multiple times. For example, if Finicum had his hands in the air and was then was shot in the abdomen first, then any man’s natural reaction would be to then lower his hand(s) and clutch the wound. Additionally, if any shots were fired, even in the vicinity, then confusion could have ensued which might have prompted Finicum to reach for his weapon. Either way, it is impossible to make any such a forensic determination without a corresponding audio track – which would help to determine if any shots were fired before Finicum’s hand(s) could be seen lowering.
WARNING: Images depict violence which some viewers may find disturbing. Watch here:
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