Jeanette Finicum to sue feds for killing of LaVoy one year ago

The suit will allege that the FBI fired at Finicum “when he’s getting out of his car to surrender,” Claypool said. “What’s critical is he’s not even out of his door and there are gunshots blowing through his windows. That’s excessive force 101.”

Maxine Bernstein

Oregon Live

A federal civil rights lawsuit in the death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum will allege that Oregon State Police and the FBI used excessive force in a confrontation that could have ended peacefully, the Finicum family’s lawyer says.

The family also will contend that improper police procedures and lack of communication between state police and FBI agents at the scene contributed to Finicum’s shooting death, said attorney Brian Claypool.

The Jan. 26, 2016 police stop of Finicum, 54, a leader of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, was an “unnecessary escalation,” Claypool said.

Finicum, a rancher from Canes Bed, Arizona, raced away from a police stop on U.S. 395 as he was on his way to a community meeting in John Day. He crashed into the side of a snowbank to avoid a police roadblock.

The suit will allege that the FBI fired at Finicum “when he’s getting out of his car to surrender,” Claypool said. “What’s critical is he’s not even out of his door and there are gunshots blowing through his windows. That’s excessive force 101.”

Slow-motion video of gunshot FBI allegedly lied about in LaVoy Finicum confrontation

The FBI shots didn’t strike Finicum. Two state troopers moments later fired shots at Finicum as police said he reached at least twice into the inside of his jacket to grab for his loaded handgun. He died from three shots to the back.

The attorney must send one more notice – to the FBI — before the wrongful death suit can be filed in federal court, he said. He expects to do so by Friday or early next week. He already has filed a notice of the family’s intent to sue with state police. Once the FBI notice is denied as anticipated, the family can move forward with the suit, he said.

The lawsuit will likely ask for about $5 million in damages for Finicum’s widow and each of their 12 children, Claypool said.

jeanette-finicum.JPG

Jeanette Finicum, wife of rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, speaks with reporters during a rally at the Utah State Capitol on Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The rally was held in memory of Finicum, an occupier of an Oregon wildlife refuge who was shot by police and killed as authorities moved to arrest him. Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press

Oregon authorities found the state police shooting justified. The FBI’s shots and alleged coverup remain under investigation.

“Mr. Finicum repeatedly and knowingly made choices that put him in this situation,” said Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan last March. “It was not the outcome that any of us wanted but one he, alone, is responsible for.”

Washington Post photo

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