An eyewitness and his daughter have provided the first outside account of the shootout between members of the Oregon militiamen who had seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge complex and a blocking force of FBI agents who kept the vehicle from escaping an attempted traffic stop.
A Pilot Rock resident on his way to California was a witness to the shootout on Highway 395 between the FBI, Oregon State Police and members of the Malheur militia, he told KOIN 6 News.
Raymond Doherty said when he first arrived at the scene north of Burns around 4:40 p.m. “there was a shootout going on. So we kind of watched it, videoed it.”
He said he got out of his pickup and saw “a lot of smoke coming off of the Bundy vehicle and the FBI was hollering at them.”
He said he saw 3 protesters and as many as 15 people with the FBI and OSP.
Shots were fired, dogs began barking and “after a very short time they returned fire.”
Though there was “a lot of shooting going on,” Doherty said he didn’t see anybody get shot.
“I saw them shooting at each other.”
The shooting happened in a very short time — “maybe 12 to 15 seconds” — but there were possibly 6 shots. “I really couldn’t tell who was shooting, doing most of the shooting. I did see some shots hit the pickup,” Doherty told KOIN 6 News.
Three people surrendered, he said, coming out one at a time with their hands up.
This account differs somewhat from both the official FBI version of events and several different accounts provided by Bundy group supporters, none of which match.
A young woman who identified herself as Victoria Sharp claims to have been in the vehicle during the felony stop in which Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed and Ryan Bundy was shot, but her story is self-contradictory and claims more than a hundred shots were fired, far more than any other account. Ammond Bundy’s bodyguard Mark McConnell was the driver of the other militia vehicle which was taken into custody without incident. He stated that he spoke with two other people in Finicum’s vehicle who stated that Finicum “charged” the FBI officers. McConnell’s story comes closer to matching what the FBI and now Doherty are relating.
Eyewitness accounts are notoriously inaccurate, and it has been well documented in controlled experiments that people observing the same event from the same perspective can “see” wildly different things based partially on a mish-mash of their prior experience, on what they expect to happen and can comprehend, and what actually happened.
Importantly, the FBI says that they did videotape the stop, and that they shot Finicum as he was reaching for a weapon on his waistband:
The FBI and state police teams knew the route they were going to take. They picked a spot away from populated areas to attempt a traffic stop. One vehicle stopped on command from authorities. The second, allegedly driven by LaVoy Finicum, took off at high speed, attempting to get away.
About a mile away, out of sight, the FBI and state police had set up a roadblock.
But Finicum, with police in hot pursuit, attempted to leave the main road and drove into a snow bank. When he emerged from the vehicle, FBI and state police ordered him to surrender. That’s when, authorities say, Finicum reached down toward his waistband where he had a gun.
The SWAT team opened fire. Finicum was killed. Ryan Bundy suffered a light wound on his arm.
The shooting was captured on camera by the SWAT team. FBI and Oregon police officials are discussing possibly releasing the video, in part to counter claims by supporters that Finicum was gunned down while trying to surrender.
I would strongly suggest to the FBI that releasing the long-form video would go a long way to helping the American people understood what occurred in this shooting, and would perhaps stop potential reprisal attacks against federal officials and installations from many militia groups around the nation who are now reported to be on alert after Finicum’s death.
Most of the protesters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have left the headquarters complex overnight at the urging of Ammond Bundy. Less than a dozen protesters are thought to remain.