Rick Bowmer / AP
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s family condemned the death of an Arizona rancher who they say was unarmed with his hands up when he was shot dead by authorities during an arrest Tuesday of leaders of an armed group that has been occupying a federal wildlife refuge in rural eastern Oregon.
Authorities did not immediately identify the man killed, saying only that an adult male died in a confrontation with standoff leader Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, and his followers during a traffic stop Tuesday afternoon along U.S. 395 outside of Burns, Ore.
However, Ammon Bundy — who was arrested along with seven other people, including his brother Ryan Bundy — told his family in Nevada that the man killed was Robert "LaVoy" Finicum of Cane Beds, Ariz., according to a Bundy family spokesman.
Additionally, Arianna Finicum Brown confirmed her father's death to the Oregonian, saying "he would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved."
LaVoy Finicum, 55, was a frequent and public presence at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, often speaking for the group at news conferences.
Speaking with the Sun late Tuesday, Steve Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s nephew, accused authorities of killing Finicum “in cold blood,” claiming he was defenseless.
“We lost a great family friend, a great family man, who was unarmed with his hands up,” Steve Bundy said. “They cold-blood murdered a family man.”
In an audio clip posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Cliven Bundy echoed his nephew's message.
“(Ammon Bundy) said (Finicum) had his arms in the air, he said he was unarmed, and they shot him cold-blooded.”
Cliven Bundy was not available for further comment Tuesday night, but the family spokesman said the Nevada ranch militia members would seek to avenge Finicum's death “very soon.”
“There has to be retribution,” Steve Bundy said. “But we’re not going to ruin the element of surprise.”
Tuesday's confrontation came after more than three weeks of growing tension that put the tiny community of Burns — about a five-hour drive from Portland — into an international debate about homegrown militias, public lands and constitutional rights. Ammon Bundy, 40, and a group of his followers, adopting the name Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, occupied the wildlife refuge, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, on Jan. 2.
Ammon Bundy and some of his group had been expected Tuesday night at a community meeting about 70 miles away in John Day, Ore., where he was to be the guest speaker. They never arrived.
Those arrested were Ammon Bundy, 40; his brother Ryan Bundy, 43; Brian Cavalier, 44; Shawna Cox, 59; and Ryan Payne, 32, all during the traffic stop. Authorities said two others — Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, 45, and Peter Santilli, 50 — were arrested separately in Burns, while FBI agents in Arizona arrested another, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, 32.
All of the defendants face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.
The Bundys and the other occupiers contend the federal government had illegally taken federal lands in Oregon and elsewhere around the West, from ranchers and other private landholders over the decades, and demanded that the lands be returned to local control. They also said they were supporting two local ranchers who were in prison for setting fires that spread to federal land.
At the Oregon refuge, a spokesman said they would wait out the night.
Jason Patrick, an occupier, said that several people were still inside and that the mood was “prepared but calm.”
“They said ‘peaceful resolution,’ but now there is a dead cowboy,” he said, adding that he believed the FBI was “hellbent on war.”
Patrick would not say whether the occupiers would stay at the refuge in the long term.
Ammon Bundy’s family became a symbol of anti-government sentiment in 2014 when his father, Cliven Bundy, inspired a standoff between armed local anti-government activists and federal officials seeking to confiscate cattle grazing illegally on federal land in Nevada.
The Associated Press and the New York Times News Service contributed to this report.