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Wednesday
Mar232016

The Public has a Right to Know 

A couple of weeks ago, as the greatly anticipated press conference on the shooting of a rancher along a deserted stretch of highway in southeastern Oregon was about to unfold, tensions were rising. There were actually ran promo spots on radio and TV and whispers began all over social media in the couple days leading up to the conference, talking about the possibility of being invited to attend this special event  where it would revealed to all, just what happened, and who’s responsible.

One thing was for certain though, and was not in dispute; 54 year old LaVoy Finicum, a husband, a father, a former Marine, a rancher, a lover of liberty, who had never been in any trouble with the law his entire life, was dead. What we all wanted to know in addition to why was; who ordered it, and who carried it out.

Most of us had seen, at different times, excerpts from the “official” video, taken from overhead by a drone (of unknown ownership), which we were told was “unedited” footage, only to later learn it was not.  It was a video only, with no audio, poor positioning (often behind trees) obscuring a clear view of what was happening on the ground, yet even at that, it was horrifying to watch. 

That footage however was nothing compared to what was to come out just before the press conference; a film taken by Shawna Cox from the backseat of LaVoy’s pickup, with sound, and all the emotions of the five passengers in that truck, one of those an eighteen year old member of her family’s singing ensemble, on the way to a meeting where they would perform.

When I watched it the first time in an attachment to an email sent to me, I was stunned. Even though I had already met with Shawna weeks earlier following her release from jail, and had taken her whole story down, I was totally unprepared for what I witnessed! I was on deadline that night, and I almost couldn’t continue to write, or even focus on the other stories and editing before me.

The next morning a few visitors came by the office and I showed the Cox video over our computer monitor in the front office. Not a word was spoken until the nearly 12 minutes video was finished. Jaws dropped visibly as gasps of disgust could be heard. How could this happen? Not in America! Not for merely voicing political dissent about the policies of federal land management!

Right then, someone said to me, “You know, I had no idea, really, what had happened over there. And a lot of our friends know even less.” So I made the decision, right then, to host a public event, and let the people see this and decide for themselves what it all means.

I got in touch with the owner of Loggers Tap House, a local restaurant that had a big screen, and enough seating capacity to accommodate a good crowd. We picked a time that was before their normal business hours so as not to disrupt their normal clientele, and they offered to put together a special, no-host pancake breakfast for just $7 so they could make a little without charging room costs. It came together very smoothly, and we began getting the word out.

It looked like everything was going along just fine; we were already getting lots of RSVPs so we could give the cook a headcount. That’s when we got our first call asking: “Why did you cancel the video presentation about LaVoy Finicum’s murder?” We just stood there dumbfounded and reassured her that we had done no such thing. And assured the caller it’s a go! After all that call came in Thursday night at about 5:00 pm and the event was scheduled for morning after next on Saturday, at 10:00 am.

Sure enough I checked my e-mail, and the owners had cancelled our booking, with less than 36 hours to go! We emailed back and forth as to what had happened, and it came down to their being threatened with a boycott if they let us provide this information to the public. Now at this point, after recovering from the shock and the scramble required to change venues at the last hour, I was sickened for our friends at Loggers. This is the last thing they wanted.

According to the owners, the group that organized the boycott, using social media, was Wives of Law Enforcement Officers. They were told if the video, which the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office released, were shown; they would encourage everyone they could to not eat in their restaurants!

So much for the First Amendment, so much for free speech, and so much for an open public review of the investigation just released. It was very disturbing to watch this kind of attack being launched against a local business owner.

Perhaps the most disturbing was the realization of how this attitude has permeated our society today.

It’s coming up at political gatherings where people are showing up with the sole purpose to disrupt and intimidate those with whom they disagree. It comes up when someone doesn’t bake a cake, or chooses to state their faith position. The bottom line is; it is unfettered intolerance. But just disagreeing doesn’t go far enough for those with this mindset; they insist on theirs being the only permissible view.  

In the end we held the event at the Holiday Inn and made the presentation to a standing room only crowd. It was surprising how many people had not seen the footage. Most were aghast! And for good reason.

There are many new, and many contradictory pieces of evidence coming out this week about FBI shots, first denied, and now in evidence. The story has made it to the Washington Post, and some believe there may be criminal charges before this is over. We will continue to cover this as it unfolds.

One thing is for sure; pushing this tragedy behind closed doors is no way to restore confidence in a government that is sorely lacking in the faith and confidence of those they represent. And while we appreciate and support the Thin Blue Line, which was put in place to protect our rights, we want to be certain that we’re standing on the same side of that line. American ranchers are not the enemy.

Editor’s Note: For those who missed this showing, we will be showing the video footage and some additional coverage again in a public meeting sometime after the Easter holiday. Watch for announcement.

 

David Jaques, Editor

Wednesday
Mar092016

A Real Horror Show released 

I watched in horror the video released today of the LaVoy Finicum murder. The horror came from the real-time video shot by Shawna Cox, which she filmed from the back seat of LaVoy’s pickup truck in transit and through both stops. Her video also had full audio, in which you can hear the full exchange between Finicum and law enforcement, and the live rounds being fired at them.

The video that I saw, about 14 minutes in length, was synced to the so-called “unedited” official aerial video that the FBI released within minutes of the ambush on Oregon Highway 395. The reason for the quotes around unedited is that if it were unedited, why don’t we see Ryan Payne get out at the first police stop. I have been asked not to call it a traffic stop by the families and those close to the case, and rightly so, because it was not a traffic stop, which continues to be the standard line from law enforcement and the mainstream press.

The press conference held today in Deschutes County was troubling on so many levels. First, it was conducted by the Deschutes County Sheriff, why? The killing didn’t take place in Deschutes County. Second, it was totally choreographed and rehearsed down to a refined script undoubtedly approved by the Justice Department, OSP and the FBI. A little side bar I have to mention, was the Malhuer County District Attorney Dan Norris, can be seen standing behind the Deschutes County Sheriff during his part of the presentation, with a goofy grin on his face. Maybe he was nervous, but it made me sick to watch.

The script that Norris read from included the statement from the State Medical Examiner confirming that Finicum “was dropped by three bullets in his torso, entering his back.” He was shot in the back by Oregon State Police.

They claim, in the official narrative, that the OSP officers acted appropriately because they were in fear of their own safety and that of their fellow officers. After Finicum lay dead in the knee high snow where he was “dropped” the report claims that upon examining the dead man, they found a 9MM pistol in his left pocket. Finicum was known to carry a revolver, holstered on his right hip, not a semi auto 9MM and not on his left side. It has been reported by all who were travelling that day with him that he was not armed on this trip.

This report is not trusted or believed by those who were there at the scene with Finicum, nor by his family; none of whom recall him owning any such weapon. There are also rumors circulating that the gun was stolen and that the serial numbers were ground off. Question, if the numbers were ground off, how could it be determined that it was stolen? Norris also said that “the troopers knew Mr. Finicum carried a weapon in his left side” and that “Mr. Finicum was reaching for that loaded 9MM when the troopers lawfully used deadly force...”

But in spite of all the fanfare delivering the total “justification” of killing Finicum, there emerged a new problem for the Feds. There are supposedly two shots unaccounted for from the FBI shooters. Even more problematic than their not being accounted for, is the original reports that none of them had fired, or had not reported any firing of their weapons.

Much of the information provided at the press conference today is very hard to swallow, to say the least, but one thing is not in dispute; LaVoy Finicum has never been accused of a crime in his entire life, yet he is dead. This is a rancher, a family man, and a former marine. He had no desire to die, just stand for what he believed to be right principles found in the Constitution and our laws.

This is a fight that has been going on for decades, a fight over the lawful use of grazing rights on public lands, rights that predate the BLM.  This is a fight that is far from over.

And it is clear that an innocent man died on January 26th, when there was no need for that to happen, whether those responsible for his death have been found “justified” or not.

I highly recommend finding the newly released video on-line and watching it, though it is very disturbing, so be mindful of who is in the room. If you’re anything like me you too will be sickened. We must not let Finicum’s senseless killing go unchallenged, nor shall we ever forget the price he paid to sound the alarm for those who cherish liberty.

 

David Jaques, Editor

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