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Niece of slain Oregon occupier speaks out

Posted at 8:35 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 22:35:11-05

There are two very different interpretations of the FBI video which shows LaVoy Finicum getting shot by officers at a roadblock in Oregon.

Finicum, an Arizona rancher, was part of the armed group that took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during a siege that began nearly a month ago.

Investigators say Finicum was reaching for his gun but family members, who live in Colorado, say he was just trying to maintain his balance.

“The video is heart breaking,” said Jessica Edgar, Finicum’s niece. “My uncle exited the vehicle with his hands above his head. The FBI says he reached for a gun in his left pocket, but my Uncle LaVoy holds his gun on his right side and he exited the vehicle with his hands raised.”

The FBI released the video hoping to counter claims that Finicum was shot while he had his hands in the air.

FULL VIDEO: Shooting death of LaVoy Finicum by FBI agents

The 26-and-a-half minute long video shows two vehicles at a traffic stop, Finicum’s white truck and a black truck.  While officers are focused on the black truck, Finicum takes off.

The aerial video shows him driving at a high rate of speed on a remote highway. As he approaches a police roadblock, he veers off to the left, apparently trying to go around it and nearly hits an officer.

“He actually veered to miss him,” Ms. Edgar said. If he really wanted or intended to hurt them, he could have gone through that barricade with his diesel truck.”

After getting stuck in the snow, Finicum jumps out of the truck with his hands raised. He walks around, turns around and then appears to first put one hand down momentarily and then the other.  That’s when officers shot him. 

The FBI says Finicum had a loaded gun in his left pocket.

“My uncle holds his pistol on the right side of his body. He was not reaching for a pistol with the left hand,” Edgar said. “He was stumbling on that hillside as he was being shot by the FBI.”

The video does not include audio, but a woman who was reportedly in the truck with Finicum, Victoria Sharp, said, “He had his hands in the air… and he’s like ‘just shoot me.  That’s what you want.  Just shoot me.’ And they did.”

LISTEN: Full witness statement from Victoria Sharp

“He was such a good person,” Edgar said. He could just make you light up when you walked into a room with him.  If anyone knows him, they know that he did not deserve to die over this.”

Edgar said she never thought it would come to this.

“The movement they were part of was very peaceful. They were never violent. My uncle was a righteous man. He and his wife raised 11 children. They also ran a boy’s ranch for foster children. 

The niece said she doesn’t know everything about what her uncle was fighting for but said he was “fighting for rights that should never have been taken away from us.” Edgar adds that “he was fighting for the U.S. Constitution."

-- The aftermath of the armed occupation --

Eleven of the protesters have been arrested. Four others continue to hold out.

A federal judge said Thursday she will not release any defendants while the occupation continues. 

Through his attorney, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the group, has called on the holdouts to leave peacefully.

The protesters, who took over the refuge on January 2, are demanding that the federal government turn public lands over to local control. They believe federal rules governing grazing and mining rights across the West are onerous.

“People need to stand up for what is right,” Edgar said. “Maybe they don’t believe in the way that my uncle handled it, or the way the group handled it… but more people need to be informed about what’s going on in the west with these ranchers.”

-- Family members want investigation --

Edgar said she wants the Obama administration to investigate the shooting.

“We need 100,000 signatures for them to even consider it,” she said. “So, I’ll be down in Civic Center Park on Saturday trying to collect them.”

Edgar said she and her family will head down to the park just after 9:00 a.m. to begin collecting signatures.

She added that she’ll also hand out cards with Paypal information to help her aunt and her 11 children and the orphan kids at the boy’s ranch.

Those cards will include the email address:  tharatenney@gmail.com

She said anyone wanting to learn more about her father’s fight can visit: www.onecowboystandforfreedom.com

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