The widow of an anti-government activist who helped take over an Oregon wildlife refuge and was later killed in a confrontation with law enforcement says her husband's civil rights were violated and she intends to sue, her lawyer confirmed Monday.
Robert Lavoy Finicum’s pursuers were “motivated by political reasons” when they fatally shot him on Jan. 26, attorney Brian Claypool said in a statement.
The FBI and Oregon State Police “escalated the otherwise peaceful demonstration by pursuing Finicum despite his repeated instruction to them that he was on his way” to meet with the local sheriff, Claypool said.
Two of the FBI agents involved in the fatal confrontation on a snowy stretch of Highway 395 north of remote Burns, Oregon are now under investigation for allegedly lying about firing shots at the truck Finicum was driving, Claypool added.
Both the FBI and the Oregon State Police declined to comment on the threatened lawsuit.
Claypool said he will also be representing another occupier, 43-year-old Ryan Bundy, in a separate federal civil rights lawsuit. Bundy was in the truck with Finicum and was shot in the arm during the confrontation.
Finicum’s widow, Jeanette, said after the shooting that her husband was “executed in cold blood.”
“My husband was murdered,” said the widow, who was not in the truck when her husband was fatally shot.
A 54-year-old Arizona rancher, Finicum was part of a militia group led by Ammon Bundy that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 and demanded that the feds relinquish control of all public lands and release two local ranchers who were jailed for setting fires.
As the standoff dragged on, Finicum became the group’s unofficial spokesman and said he’d sooner die than go to federal prison.
"There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them, Finicum, an Arizona rancher, told NBC News in January. "I'm prepared to defend freedom."
Oregon State Troopers fired the fatal rounds. Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said the shots were justified because Finicum did not heed the officers’ commands and repeatedly reached for his weapon.
The U.S. Department of Justice, however, confirmed it is investigating the FBI agents involved in the deadly traffic stop for allegedly not disclosing that they too fired at Finicum, although their shots did not hit him.
The feds have also released aerial footage of the deadly encounter, which shows Finicum plowing the truck into a snowbank to avoid a police roadblock. It shows him getting out with his hands up at first — and then shows him appearing to reach toward his jacket pocket at least twice. It is at that point that the officers shoot him and he falls into the snow.
The FBI said it found a loaded handgun in Finicum's pocket.
More than two dozen people — including Ammon Bundy — have been charged with conspiracy to interfere with federal workers in connection with the standoff.