FBI shoot­ing of oc­cu­pier angers some in split Ore­gon com­mu­nity

Pro­test­ers gather out­side Har­ney court­house in out­rage over “am­bush”

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kevin Sul­li­van

burns, ore. » BJ Soper has never sup­ported the nearly month-long oc­cu­pa­tion of a na­tional wildlife refuge by armed antigov­ern­ment ac­tivists. He sym­pa­thized with their frus­tra­tions about the fed­eral govern­ment, but he thought calm ne­go­ti­a­tion­was a bet­ter strat­egy.

Then, on Tues­day, an Ore­gon state trooper shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, a cow­boy-hat-wear­ing grand­fa­ther who acted as the oc­cu­piers’ spokesman.

Now Soper is fu­ri­ous, and he’s call­ing for peo­ple fro­mall over the coun­try to come to Burns to show their out­rage at Finicum’s “am­bush.” “I’m an­gry,” Soper, 39, said late Fri­day, join­ing twodozen­protesters in a light sleet out­side the Har­ney County Court­house. “We’ve go­ta­man that’s dead. Over what? I don’twant to see any­more blood­shed, and that’s notwhat I’m con­don­ing. But at some point when Amer­i­can peo­ple keep get­ting killed by their govern­ment, peo­ple are go­ing to fight back.”

Finicum’s killing has re-en­er­gized antigov­ern­ment ac­tivists, even as the oc­cu­pa­tion at the nearby Mal­heurNa­tion­alWildlife Refuge seemed to be run­ning out of steam. Only four oc­cu­piers re­mained holed up at the refuge, while 11 oth­ers have been ar­rested. Their jailed leader, Am­mon Bundy, who was ar­rested in the same op­er­a­tion in which Finicum was killed, has called for the three men and one woman still at the refuge to go home peace­fully.

The FBI took the un­usual step of re­leas­ing a video of Finicum’s shoot­ing, which of­fi­cials say shows him reach­ing at least twice for a hol­stered hand­gun. But the video, taken from an FBI air­craft, is of poor qual­ity and is am­bigu­ous, and it has only added to the con­vic­tion of Finicum’s sup­port­ers that his killing­was noth­ing less than an ex­e­cu­tion.

“It was an as­sas­si­na­tion,” said Monte Sieg­ner, 79. “He had his hands up,” Sieg­ner said. “He didn’t have a gun in his hands, and he wasn’t threat­en­ing no one.”

FBI of­fi­cials have with­held fur­ther com­ment on the shoot­ing un­til a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cludes. But they have re­peat­edly said they want a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to the stand­off. Greg Bret­z­ing, the FBI spokesman­who pre­sented the video, said that “our ne­go­tia­tors are­work­ing around the clock” to end the stand­off.

In Burns, the new round of protests has elicited a col­lec­tive groan from­many peo­ple. Most in this re­mote town, high on the east­ern Ore­gon desert plains, have never sup­ported the oc­cu­piers. While many peo­ple here have com­plaints about the man­age­ment of fed­eral lands, which com­prise more than half of Ore­gon’s to­tal land, few sup­ported an armed takeover of fed­eral prop­erty as the way to ex­press their frus­tra­tions.

“I haven’t spo­ken to one per­son who is for any of this,” said one Burns res­i­dent, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he feared reprisals from antigov­ern­ment ex­trem­ists. “It was not the fault of any­body here that he got killed. And it wasn’t the po­lice’s fault. They didn’t just shoot him for no rea­son.”

While it’s been good for busi­ness in a usu­ally dead time of year (lo­cal wait­resses said the oc­cu­piers are by far the best tip­pers), res­i­dents said the oc­cu­pa­tion has caused tremen­dous fric­tion in town. Finicum’s death has dashed hopes for life re­turn­ing to nor­mal any­time soon, as peo­ple de­bate the two com­pet­ing ver­sions of blame for his death that have emerged.

• burns, ore. » Four peo­ple oc­cu­py­ing an Ore­gon wildlife refuge con­tin­ued to hold their po­si­tion Satur­day and posted live videos that re­veal their hy­per-vig­i­lance against fed­eral of­fi­cials who may try to move them out, while 11 oth­ers who were ar­rested this week re­mained in cus­tody.

Dur­ing one early-morn­ing video posted by a man iden­ti­fied as David Fry, the oc­cu­piers ex­pressed con­cerns about nearby air­craft, and Fry gets jumpy when he be­lieves he hears gun­shots near the en­trance.

“False alarm,” he then said af­ter re­al­iz­ing the noise came from a gen­er­a­tor or some other type of equip­ment.

“We’re not dead yet,” he said, re­peat­ing a theme that he and oth­ers have ex­pressed through the weeks of the oc­cu­pa­tion. They’ve said they will leave only if given im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion and are ready to die de­fend­ing their po­si­tion.

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