KANAB, Utah — While hundreds of mourners arrived Friday for the funeral of Robert LaVoy Finicum, one of the anti-government occupiers of federal buildings at an Oregon wildlife refuge, his daughter stood outside the Mormon church in the town where he was born and said her dad “died for liberty.”
“My dad was an amazing man. He died for liberty. He died for everybody’s freedoms,” said Brittney Beck, 26. “I think it’s really great that people are here to honor him and thank him for that.”
Finicum, 54, an Arizona rancher and spokesman for a group of self-styled militia led by Ammon Bundy, son of defiant Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, had occupied buildings at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for nearly a month when he encountered a roadblock Jan. 26 driving to an eastern Oregon town to deliver a message about federal overreach on public lands.
After Ammon Bundy and other protesters were taken into custody at the stop, Finicum remained in the truck and sped off a few minutes later.
He was shot and killed by Oregon state police after he jumped out of the truck that he drove into a snowbank, nearly hitting a police officer and swerving off the roadway at a containment barricade set up by the FBI and a local law enforement task force.
Nathan James, 45, of Las Vegas, drove with about 20 others to show solidarity for the Finicium family and friends at the Kanab Utah Kaibab Stake Center, where Finicum’s funeral will be held Friday afternoon. “I’m here as a regular citizen of our country.”
He said he, too, feels that the government has too much control of public lands. “I didn’t know it was so tough to be a rancher.”
Todd Applegate drove to the church from Vale, Oregon, to pay respects for Finicum, who he had met during the occupation, to “thank him for what he was doing for our country, for our children.”
“We’re here to pay our respects to a great American hero and make sure this isn’t forgotten,” Applegate said, adding that his hometown is a ranching community and a Bureau of Land Management community.
“We’re really torn right now. It’s a tough deal,” he said, adding that the Bundys go to church with his in-laws, “so we know him.”
“We want to support this thing that he stood up for and died for,” Applegate said about Finicum.
He said he wasn’t part of the occupation but drove to the refuge’s resource center and helped cook lunch for the occupiers. “I went down four days in a row and got to know these people.”
Applegate said he doesn’t like to attach the word “martyr” to Finicum. “He didn’t mean to die. He had obviously lots of friends and family and other things to think about. So, no, I don’t think he weas a martyr. I think he died for his cause because he was willing to do that just to protect the people in the truck at that point.”
“I don’t think he saw that coming,” Applegate said.
Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and 14 others have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the armed takeover of the wildlife refuge.
All 16 defendants — including four protesters still holed up at the refuge near Burns — have been charged with a single felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States.
Both Bundy brothers are being held without bail and face a Feb. 24 arraignment. Authorities consider Ammon Bundy the Oregon takeover’s leader.
The three-page indictment, unsealed in Portland on Thursday, accuses the defendants of conspiring to “prevent by force, intimidation and threats” employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from carrying out their duties at the refuge.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.