Situation Report (SITREP) – 0400L 28 JAN 16
It’s been a very long 36 hours since yesterday’s events began unfolding. Avoidable tragedy struck Tuesday afternoon when LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed. Since then, there have been at least four different accounts of what happened. We’ve seen wild and inaccurate speculation about what’s going on at the Refuge, which has been contradictory to on the ground reporting.
In these times, we need to focus on discerning facts from opinions, and separate what’s more likely to be true from what’s less likely to be true through a structured process. What follows is my personal account of following the situation, including talks with sources on the ground and on conference calls with Sergeant Major Joseph Santoro (U.S.A., Ret.), Stewart Rhodes, State Representative Matthew Shea (R-WA), Jason Van Tatenhove, and others.
Here’s what we know.
– Just before 5:00 pm local on Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Oregon State Police (OSP) made a felony stop on two vehicles carrying Ammon Bundy and six other individuals headed to a community meeting in John Day, Oregon, in neighboring Grant County. During the stop, which occurred on land that the federal government controls just inside the Malheur National Forest, law enforcement personnel fired shots, wounding Ryan Bundy and killing LaVoy Finicum. Here’s a breakdown of the four known accounts.
- Ammon Bundy allegedly called his wife to tell her that LaVoy Finicum was unarmed and had his hands up when shot and killed. Ammon received this account second-hand and was passing on what he was told. We know that the altercation with LaVoy occurred outside the line of sight of Ammon Bundy.
- Victoria Sharpe was allegedly in LaVoy’s vehicle during the shooting, and she claims that around 120 rounds were fired during the altercation, and that LaVoy had his hands up while walking towards FBI and OSP officers. FBI and OSP officers, according to Victoria Sharpe’s account, shot Lavoy and continued to shoot him after he fell down.
- Mark McConnell’s account draws heavily on the alleged first-hand accounts of Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne. Mark’s statement claims that LaVoy drove through the felony stop further north up the road. According to Mark, Shawna Cox continues the story she related to him, saying that they drove towards the FBI-OSP road block, where LaVoy then attempted to drive around the road block. After the truck got stuck, LaVoy exited the vehicle and charged law enforcement personnel. Mark cites the stories of Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne that LaVoy was not on his knees and was not cooperative when he was killed.
- Finally, according to a joint FBI-OSP statement published Wednesday morning, three shots were fired during the stop. It provides no additional information about the altercation.
- (Analyst Comment: Each of the three eye witness accounts agree that LaVoy drove his truck past the felony stop, towards the road block. Each of the three eye witness accounts agree that LaVoy had his hands up in the air, and two claim that he was walking towards FBI and OSP personnel when shot and killed. From there, the eye witness accounts get very contradictory. The accounts of Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne, according to Mark McConnell, support the limited information provided by the FBI-OSP statement. The account of Victoria Sharpe is the outlier. Two things are sure for me: there was no “shoot out” as the media has reported. According to each of the eye witness statements above, no possibility exists that LaVoy Finicum fired at police. After surveying three weeks of his video statements about the potential for his death, and speaking with him in person a little over a week ago, I’m more inclined to believe that LaVoy was shot on his feet than on his knees. “I’m not going to end up in prison. I would rather die than be caged. And I’ve lived a good life,” he told reporters during the first week of the occupation. He went on record numerous times later saying, effectively, that he was going to walk away after the mission was accomplished or that he was going to die trying. If we’re to believe LaVoy’s conviction that he would have rather died than go to prison, then in the face of overwhelming odds that he would be arrested, we must accept the possibility that he died for the cause. If Shawna and Ryan’s accounts, as told by Mark McConnell are accurate, then he was walking towards police when he was shot. That increases the likelihood of a wrongful death scenario, and gives no credence to the claim that he was executed while on his knees. Additionally, we need to ask why non-lethal/less-lethal means weren’t used in order to subdue LaVoy, especially if his hands remained up.)
– After the felony stop, Sergeant Major Joseph Santoro (U.S.A., Ret.) began communicating with FBI contacts. A top priority for SGM Santoro, acting in coordination with Pacific Patriots Network, Oath Keepers National, Stewart Rhodes, State Representative Matthew Shea (R-WA) from the Coalition of Western States (C.O.W.S.) and a Coalition representative at the Refuge, was to work with the FBI in order to give enough time for women and children at the Refuge to leave. He repeatedly expressed his concern that an FBI action on the compound would result in further loss of life, including the potential for harm to women and children. SGM Santoro convinced his FBI contacts to delay any action on the Refuge, while a C.O.W.S. representative at the Refuge worked to get the women and children packed up to leave. Through numerous phone calls and face to face coaxing, a majority of the occupiers agreed to leave. Additionally, a YouTube video posted by David Fry early Thursday morning confirms that conditions at the Refuge were ‘chaotic’ as occupiers packed up to leave as quickly as possible.
– The mission of the Pacific Patriots Network has been to prevent another Waco, where federal agents mass murder American citizens during an assault on a compound. That mission has so far been accomplished.
– According to sources at the Refuge, there weren’t enough vehicles to transport everyone who wanted to leave the Refuge. SGM Santoro relayed that to the FBI, and the FBI contacts instructed those without a vehicle to drive a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) vehicle parked at the Refuge into Burns and park it at a location where it would later be picked up by BLM officials.
– According to sources at the Refuge, Jason Patrick, who decided to stay, became angry that most occupiers were leaving, and refused to move a vehicle so that they could leave the Refuge Headquarters. Those leaving were forced to drive through private property in order get back to a highway, where they began their trip back into Burns, and then home.
– At approximately 0200L on the morning of 27 January, sources in contact with the FBI claimed that the remaining occupiers were given until 0400L to vacate, implying that action might be taken to remove them if they stayed past the deadline. At 0400L, no action was taken, and as of 0100L on Thursday, 28 January, no direct action has been taken at the Refuge.
– On Wednesday afternoon, Duane Ehmer, the cowboy who infamously rode his horse while hoisting an American flag, was arrested by the FBI.
– On Wednesday evening, negotiations with Jason Patrick were finally successful and he agreed to leave the refuge. According to sources familiar with the story, the FBI told Jason Patrick that he was free to leave, however, he would be arrested if he had an outstanding warrant. After walking seven miles out of the Refuge to the FBI checkpoint to be picked up, he was arrested by law enforcement at 1910L due to an outstanding warrant. (Analyst Comment: Jason Patrick was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. Being one of the more ardent protesters at the Refuge, the FBI likely considered him to be one of the top instigators, especially after he decided to stay as most others left.)
– A video posted to YouTube early Thursday morning indicates that five occupiers remain at the Refuge. In the video, David Fry says they’re refusing to leave because one individual has an outstanding warrant and will be arrested. They told their FBI negotiator that they would all leave if his warrant is revoked. No further information is available.
– There are efforts underway to organize large gatherings in Salem, Oregon to protest the killing of LaVoy Finicum in front of the governor’s office and another building. There’s also a protest being scheduled in Eugene. Follow the Pacific Patriots Network for additional and up to date information.
Photo via Harney County Mall Cops