The man killed Tuesday as police arrested a group of armed protesters who took control of an Oregon federal wildlife refuge this month had his hands up when he was shot by officers, according to at least one account of the incident distributed by the group.
Though authorities have yet to confirm the name of the man killed, or to verify the circumstances of the shooting, supporters of the group have said the man killed was 55-year-old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a former spokesman of the group.
On Wednesday, the group posted on the Bundy Ranch Facebook page an audio recording of an account from a woman who was reportedly in the same car as Mr. Finicum when the shooting happened.
The woman, identified as Victoria Sharp, said she was in a car with Mr. Finicum when law enforcement stopped the car. She said individuals inside the car were yelling to law enforcement to let them get the female passengers out of the car.
“He stuck his head out and they shot at him,” Ms. Sharp said.
The vehicle continued driving and hit a snow bank, at which point she said officers opened fire at the car striking it multiple times. She said Mr. Finicum was exiting the car when he was shot.
“He was just walking with his hands in the air and they shot him. They shot him dead,” she said.
Varying accounts disputing the allegations that Mr. Finicum was shot with his hands up have also already emerged online.
Mark McConnell, who was riding in one of the other vehicles in a caravan with the truck Mr. Finicum was in, has posted his own videotaped account online. Noting that he did not witness the shooting but had a chance to talk to others who were in the vehicle, Mr. McConnell said Mr. Finicum “charged after law enforcement” before he was shot.
“He was not on his knees, none of that nonsense,” Mr. McConnell said. “But he went after them, he charged them. LaVoy was very passionate about what he was doing up here.”
The armed protesters took over an abandoned building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Three of those involved are sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has a history of challenging federal public-lands authority, notably in a 2014 standoff with federal agents at their ranch over a grazing-fee dispute.
Law enforcement officials overseeing Tuesday’s operations did not identify the man killed or describe the circumstances of the arrests and shooting during a press conference Wednesday.
Citing the ongoing investigation and the fact that some armed protesters remained at the wildlife refuge, FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing said he could not go into detail. But he did fault the protesters for setting up the circumstances that led to deadly exchange in the first place.
“Let me be clear: It is fully and unequivocally the behavior and the choices made by the armed occupiers that have led us to where we are today,” Mr. Bretzing said. “And, as the FBI and our partners have demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”