Following the most tumultuous presidential election in history, it is easy to forget what happened in January of 2016.
On January 2, 2016 around two dozen Americans chose to challenge the authority of the federal government and did so by entering and occupying the structures within the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
The group was led by Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy who had become nationally known for a 2014 standoff with the feds at his ranch in Nevada.
The group of men were peacefully armed for defensive purposes and communicating regularly with the press, however, state and local law enforcement officials, and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations became increasingly hostile as the group grew to as many as forty men.
On January 21, 2016, Ammon Bundy met with FBI investigators about the federal government relinquishing control of the refuge. Ammon and the FBI agreed to meet again the next day to continue negotiations, but the government agents declined to speak at the second meeting as media cameras were present.
Days later on January 26, state, and federal law enforcement officers created a “traffic stop” to apprehend the leaders of the occupation.
LaVoy Finicum, a cattle rancher from Arizona was the driver of one of the vehicles stopped by law enforcement.
Finicum, with his passengers, drove away from the first stop and as they approached another roadblock one mile down the road, they were fired upon by Oregon State Police.
Finicum veered his truck into a snow bank to avoid incoming gun fire then quickly exited the vehicle with his arms in the air.
As LaVoy left his truck, he was fired upon by two FBI agents . . . who missed. One round bounced off of the roof of the truck while another injured one of Finicum’s passengers.
The FBI agents failed to report the first rounds that were fired and even went so far as to pick up their rifle casings and dispose of them.
A later investigation found the FBI agents were responsible the instigating rounds but no punitive action is known to have been taking against the federal agents.
Moments after the missed shots from the FBI agents, Finicum was shot dead by Oregon State Troopers.
They state he was reaching for a 9mm Ruger in his coat pocket although the accusation is disputed by Finicum’s family.
The stand off ended on February 11th of that year and over two dozen Americans have been charged with numerous federal offenses.
On May 12, several Arizona politicians wrote to Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, requesting that the investigation into LaVoy Finicum’s death be reopened.
Finicum’s widow plans a lawsuit against the Oregon State Police and the FBI for civil rights violations.
The narrative of the occupation of the wildlife refuge and the death of LaVoy Finicum has also changed over the past year.
Ammon Bundy, Finicum and others are being described as “militants” for historic purposes and reports of vandalism and other acts take precedence over the conduct of the federal government during the stand off.
While law enforcement officials have concluded that the shooting was “justified,” critics note that Finicum had been fired upon several times by both the Oregon State Police and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
As what point is it justified to defend yourself if being shot at by government officials?