The death of LaVoy Finicum: what does the video tell us?

Aerial surveillance video has been released of the traffic stop that resulted in the death of LaVoy Finicum and the arrest of several other activists.  If you haven’t yet seen it, here’s a link.

I have several problems with the release of this video footage and the reactions to it I’ve so far seen.

  1. Why was only aerial footage released?  Surely the vehicles and FBI agents involved in the traffic stop had dash- and body cameras running?  If they didn’t, it was the height of irresponsibility by the authorities, who must undoubtedly have known that such a traffic stop would be scrutinized to a fare-thee-well by both supporters and opponents of the principals involved.  To release only long-distance footage that doesn’t show the action ‘up close and personal’ is almost worse than releasing no footage at all.  It leaves a great deal open to speculation and personal interpretation.
  2. Many of the reactions I’ve so far seen to the video have been partisan:  “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts!”  I’ve seen some claims that Mr. Finicum was reaching for his waistband or pocket, in what appeared to be an attempt to get his hands on a gun, before he was shot.  Others have claimed that he was shot by the FBI, and was reaching for the site of the injury in a natural, instinctive ‘pain reaction’ when he was shot again and killed.  It’s simply not possible to tell the facts of the matter from so distant a video clip.  I can see no sign on the video that anyone fired a shot before Mr. Finicum reached for his waist.  On the other hand, it isn’t possible to say that with any certainty from such a remote perspective.
  3. The law enforcement personnel involved in the stop would undoubtedly have been on edge, expecting violent resistance.  After all, there are several statements on record from Mr. Finicum and others in the vehicle to the effect that they would resist arrest, including explicit threats to use violence against law enforcement officers.  Furthermore, the activists’ vehicle almost runs down an officer as it plows off the road into a snowbank.  I accept that the driver may not have had time to avoid him – it looks as if the officer runs forward, almost into the vehicle’s path – but that wouldn’t prevent officers on the scene, in the heat of the moment, from interpreting it as a deliberate act.  In such a high-stress environment, it may be that an officer opened fire prematurely.  On the other hand, it’s equally possible that Mr. Finicum did reach for his waistband before any shots were fired.  If he did, given his publicly stated intention to resist arrest, then even if he didn’t visibly have his hand on a gun, the response from law enforcement officers was probably inevitable.

I’ve already had e-mails accusing me of being a ‘traitor to freedom’ and other such pleasantries because I haven’t stated explicitly on my blog that Mr. Finicum was shot first, before he reached for his waist.  Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t tell that from the evidence and video footage thus far releasedAs I said earlier, ‘eyewitness testimony’ so far available in the public domain is from partisan sources whose objectivity is at least suspect.  On the basis of the evidence currently available, such as it is, I don’t think anyone can say for sure what caused Mr. Finicum’s death.  However, people are interpreting what they see in the light of their preconceptions.  They’ve already made up their minds.  Here’s one example from Wirecutter’s blog.

He [Mr. Finicum] exited the vehicle with his arms up….. was floundering in the deep snow causing his arms (hands) to flail around for balance. He WAS walking towards the agent next to the road rapidly and that agent shot him in a panic causing Finicum to reach to the wound site. At that point the second agent who was hiding in the woods approached from behin[d] and shot him in the back at “point blank” range. A clear case of Murder! The agent who shot him from behind had absolutely no knowledge about where Finicum’s hands were since he could not see them. That second agent also fired his long gun without justification……….. Had Finicum wanted to go down fighting, he would have exited the vehicle with his pistol drawn and shooting aggressively. Shame…Shame!!!

I don’t know how that particular commenter came to such definitive conclusions on the basis of a single, long-distance video clip.  None of us were there.  We haven’t seen close-up video and audio recordings of the events.  We simply can’t tell.  Nevertheless, I doubt that such evidence might change the commenter’s mind.  He’s already convinced.

I certainly want the truth of this matter to come out.  I’m profoundly disturbed by the ‘Big Brother‘ state, verging on authoritarianism, that appears to be evolving in this country.  I think that in many cases the actions of law enforcement agencies and officers have amounted to the deliberate disregard of constitutional rights and the violation of basic individual freedoms.  However, I’ve also served in a law enforcement function, and I’m fully aware that without law enforcement, our rights and freedoms would be under grave threat from criminals and others who believe that “might makes right”.  It’s a delicate balancing act at the best of times.  At present, on the basis of the evidence available to me, I believe the balance is skewed too far towards official overreach.  That perspective should be clear to anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time.

Whether or not such overreach was the case in this particular incident is not yet clear.  Until it is, I continue to maintain that we should not rush to judgment, but rather encourage the authorities to release more evidence and clarify the situation.  If we all put pressure on our elected local, regional and national representatives to do their jobs and hold accountable the agencies for which they’re legislatively responsible, I think that can be made to happen;  so let’s get to it.  If it turns out to be a case of overreach, there are judicial and other lawful means available to ensure that justice is done.  Let’s use them, rather than try to provoke or promote a ‘lynch mob’ mentality.  The latter will merely ensure that everybody loses . . . and so will freedom itself.



  1. Peter, I'm not trying to be ugly here. Frankly, I agree with much of your assessment. I agree that there are legal ways for problems to be taken care of if there was overreach. But, do you really think that the Feds are going to honestly police themselves and ensure that "justice" is done, if there was overreach? Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton, need I say more?

    Having said that, taking up arms and escalating an already terrible situation is a bad choice too. Wish I had an answer, but I don't.

  2. The only nit I have to pick is the use of the term 'traffic stop'.

    It was (for good or ill) nothing short of an ambush.

    You don't set up a three-car roadblock and hide armed agents in the trees for a 'traffic stop'.

  3. You make some good points. My thoughts are "The Man" released a video that had as little detail as possible to help perpetuate their agenda. I am sure there is a body cam video that would give the detail that is missing in the aerial view. What we cannot is monumental.

  4. And the quote you posted isn't even the worst of the ones to show up there or elsewhere. It's depressing to me that so many people who want to think that these people are martyrs and role models to look up to, that we should follow their example. We're starting to do what we accuse the left of doing.

    So hooray! We're having our own 'black lives matter' moment.

  5. when the branch davidian were invaded and the flame throwing tanks set the buildings afire the congress made an 'investigation' and reported that the feds had not used fire and deaths ,including deaths of children, were not the feds' fault.
    my husband and i looked at each other and said we remembered the film and the tanks setting the place alight.
    in the same footage we had watched three agents climb on a roof, two went through a window and a third then turned and shot directly through the window, obviously killing or wounding the other agents, whom he had not seen enter the window as they were behind him.

    i am sure that we will get as much truth from the feds this time around.
    that is why no close up footage will ever be shown, unless it is doctored or reconstructed by actors.

    realize that we are like rats caught in a cage, a police state cage.
    if you go along to get long you may be all right for a while. but your children will pay.

    if we have any sense we will pray at every thoughtful moment for God to save us and turn back the tidal wave of evil that is heading toward us.

  6. Well I am an enemy of freedom too, then. America, you are treating your cops like crap and if you keep it up you will end up with the cops you deserve like Europe has. They will stand idly by while vibrant moslems shoot up the offices of media sources they don't like. Unarmed bobbies will watch you get beaten to death by failed liberal social experiments because it's 'unsafe for them to intervene'. And you can bet that when it becomes unsafe to arm the cops – your guns will become unsafe too!

    Further – there is no difference between these guys and the 'Black Morons Matter' crowd. If you threaten cops with violence, or push them into stupid altercations where stupid accidents and mistakes can be made – don't whine to me when you become a stupid accident statistic. That is on YOU. When you get a lawful order form a cop – he's just a poor working slob doing his job the way you do yours. If you don't like the way you are treated there are avenues of redress – AND THEY WORK. Bad cops get flushed out all the time.

    The authorities will need time to gather all the facts, the legal machinery has to be set in motion and a high profile incident like this will not get white washed. Remember St. Trayvon? The 5 year old Skittle gobbling toddler that was killed by a 300 lb. white supremist with an AR15 that had a flip up shoulder thing? If anything – we've learned we can't trust the media either – and lord knows, they are no friends of the gun owner or the patriot.

    Sorry about the rant, Pastor. If you need to hit the delete button don't give it a second thought. People just need to grow up.

  7. Peter,
    Thanks for the reasonable take on this subject. Wait for the evidence before entrenching on a position is always good advice.

  8. Spot on, sir. It is important to treat any situation where a loss of life occurs as a tragedy, even if the bad guy dies (say a criminal holding up a gas station taken down by a CCH or LEO). Loss of life is always something to mourn and should never be taken lightly.
    The only point I could disagree with you on is that if it does turn out to be a case of overreach, there may be judicial and lawful means to seek justice, but justice will not be done. How many people are currently behind bars for the Ruby Ridge and/or Waco murders? How many people were indicted on criminal charges for their actions in those murders? The answer, of course, is ZERO. The Federal Government takes no responsibility for it's oversight. Hell, go back to the Ken Ballew raid. That was a TERRIBLY botched operation. And the only one who actually fired a "Hit on Target" was the poor county police officer they dragged along, so when they tried to sue the Federal Government for their botched operation, they schluffed off their responsibility because the local guy made the shot. There will be no justice if this is government overreach.

  9. We may not know anything for this particular case, but we do know they continue to encroach on our freedoms and like to make examples. We can read the Constitution, but they keep coming up with excuses for more power. Our attitude is fundamentally defensive, but they look around for a way to terrorize us, and then they quietly deploy more arms and personnel than we can hope to defend against. Our understanding of the Constitution does not aid us in anyway.

    Whether he reached for a gun or not, the feds made this situation. And rather than taking care of our people, they made a wanton display of power.

  10. No sound came through when I watched the video, so I can't judge the situation 100%. STILL, I haven't forgotten Ruby Ridge or Waco. We all know that the tendency of modern law enforcement is the NOT so modern "shoot first, ask questions later."

  11. Peter, it's no secret that I don't agree with you on everything that you post in these pages, but I respect you as a writer and as a friend, and you are spot on here. That video tells us practically nothing. Was the guy reaching for a weapon? Was he reaching to a wound that he'd just received? Who knows? If a suspicious character came towards me with his hands up and suddenly started reaching under his jacket toward his belt line, I'd probably shoot him too. But, that's only one interpretation of what we're seeing here. Were the occupants of that truck saints on their way to church choir practice? I'm betting not. Is every one of the officers and agents involved blameless and pure, and without sin? I'm betting not there as well. There's a lot of information missing. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

  12. It sure seems in the video that the cops lit up the truck after Finnicum went down, IMO. I should like to see photos of the truck to see how many "incoming" rounds were fired…..

  13. I have no skin in this game but agree wholeheartedly with your take – wait and see, facts and confirmation before judgement.

    One aspect which, whilst not being ignored, is not as emphasized as much as it seems it should be – it certainly concerns me. That is the question of why they left the area, and how the LEO's had so considerable a time to have set-up such a stop (officers in the trees, let alone a drone).

    Were they stupid? Did they think they could just waltz out and attend a public meeting on a whim, unhindered? Or were there (considerably more likely) 'invitations' and even 'assurances' given? (Consider the claims that 'seeing' and 'discussing' with the Sheriff was central to how he reacted!).

    A rolling stop was made, but what exchanges actually occurred? But unquestionably the LEO's had already set-up further ahead. That was not a spur of the moment reaction to their 'failure to stop'.

    Consider also Peter, the positioning of the LEO's. Notice just where/how it is sited? Notice that the vehicle comes on it with limited time to react, so forcing the 'near-miss' and crash? If you are expecting traffic, wish to stop, check or even arrest, would you site it as such? Having set up numerous similar situations myself (in much different circumstances) that wasn't (in my opinion, from what little can be seen) a check-point or a vehicle stop – it was an ambush site.

    So, speculation only (as unhelpful as that may be). I suspect they were invited to a public meeting. I suspect (the Sheriff) had given them assurances of being allowed to attend unmolested. I suspect that this was only and entirely and blatantly a trap to 'lure' them out for arrest. How he reacted is consistent with someone expecting to be allowed to continue, and exasperated that all were not following the agreed 'script'.

    Then (having some considerable experience of witnessing US LEO's 'in action' – some, far too few, are beyond expert, the majority though are trigger-happy wannabees – and yes that's a professional assessment) in setting an 'ambush' site allowing no 'reasonable' reaction from the vehicle driver, officers guaranteed to be high on adrenalin, expecting, prepared and 'conditioned' to escalated an already badly mismanaged situation … did so. Duh!

    This scenarios results was predictable from the moment whoever in charge decided to implement it. If they couldn't see it, they're incompetent. If they did, this was premeditated.

    Put your rational/reasonable Pastors head down and your (former) professional head on and tell I'm wrong!

    I'll hold all judgement until all the facts are in, but suspect that this will be eventually added to the long list of travesties US 'law' enforcement is guilty of. I hope and pray not, but …

  14. Bullpucky.
    It was murder, pure and simple.
    Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy. All three criteria must be met for a shooting in defense of self (or others) to be lawful. At best, only one was met, and that one is questionable.
    A civilian who shot someone in similar circumstances would be facing at least Murder 2, and they'd be found guilty.

  15. Peter, this is the Internet. Stop being reasonable. You will get more clicks if you go full-bore into rant mode. 😉

    Best of luck with the move.

  16. "…we will pray at every thoughtful moment for God to save us and turn back the tidal wave of evil that is heading toward us."

    Yes, Pray.
    I believe there is indeed a tidal wave of evil headed towards us. There are a lot of people out there that believe a civil war is on its way, and there are more than a few that are saying: "Bring it on!" I don't think folks realize the amount of disruption, calamity, and death, a second civil war will bring to this country.
    Yes, pray. I certainly do, but I also believe that God has withdrawn his hand of protection from this country because of the millions of babies killed in abortions since 1973.

  17. ….and I'm fully aware that without law enforcement, our rights and freedoms would be under grave threat from criminals and others who believe that "might makes right".

    I'm not sure I agree with that.

    Glenn Reynolds has mentioned more than once that police serve to protect the criminals from us as much as protect us from them. Probably more, actually; without the threat of forceful government interference I suspect quite a few communities would have resolved many of their crime problems some years ago rather more directly. To paraphrase Rorschach in Watchmen, "they're locked in here with us."

    As for what exactly happened in the incident resulting in LaVoy Finicum's death, I have my own prejudices and suppositions, but I'll wait until a lot more evidence (hopefully, all of it) is presented and validated – or invalidated – before reaching a conclusion.

  18. Peter –

    I won't get into other aspects of the analysis, or Monday-morning quarterbacking.

    However, I can share one professional bit of knowledge –

    FBI vehicles (particularly the "standard" Suburbans) are NOT outfitted with dash cams – those are very much a local law enforcement thing, as FBI vehicles are very very rarely involved in traffic stops. So the lack of dash-cam video is not surprising. Similarly, I only know of one FBI unit which typically uses body worn cameras, and I do not know if they were involved in this stop or not.

    So with respect, the lack of direct officer footage is not surprising to me – this is not a typical FBI type of encounter, and thus they are not equipped with many of the things local law enforcement would take for granted.

    With respect.


  19. Phssthpok, the road block was not the initial stop. They were pulled over before that and after a minute or so of just sitting there, the driver white truck bolted.

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