A federal judge recently decided to dismiss most of the claims in a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum.
Earlier this week, a federal judge dismissed the bulk of the claims in a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a rancher in Arizona “who served as spokesperson for the armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.” The suit targeted the Oregon State Police and a handful of others.
The rancher was Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum, 54. According to the suit, he was “fatally shot by Oregon state troopers after he crashed his truck near a roadblock as state police and FBI agents arrested key people in the anti-government occupation.” His family filed a suit as a result, though U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman decided to dismiss the suit’s claims against the Oregon State Police, as well as “the former state police superintendent and the two-state troopers who fired at Finicum.” On top of that, Mosman dismissed the claims against the FBI, the federal government, Harney County, and former Harney County Sheriff, Dave Ward. Why? Well, according to the judge, Finicum’s family failed to “properly serve notice to the defendants.”
In his opinion, Mosman wrote:
“After all this time, Plaintiffs have yet to identify any facts or theories that, properly pled, would support a finding that any negligence or wrongdoing on behalf of the United States was not grounded in policy judgments.”
In the end, Mosman kept one civil rights claim against Kate Brown (D), the governor of Oregon. So far the state has not challenged it, so the plaintiffs have until September 15 to “amend a conspiracy claim against the governor, the state of Oregon, and state police.”
What happened, though? Well, according to the family, Finicum was allegedly “shot assassination style as he was trying to drive to the safety of another county on January 26, 2016.” The lawsuit claims W. Joseph Astarita, an agent with the FBI, “fired at Finicum after he crashed and stepped out of his Dodge pickup with his hands in the air in a surrender position.”
From there, Finicum was shot three times by state troopers “after he walked away from his truck and reached for an inner jacket pocket, where police later said he had a loaded 9mm handgun.”
It’s important to note that the lawsuit was filed after an “indictment against Astarita that alleged he had lied about firing twice at Finicum’s truck.” The investigation, conducted by state officials, “concluded that neither of the shots hit Finicum,” and Astarita denied ever firing his rifle.
Local law enforcement authorities conducted an interview and determined the shots that killed Finicum were justified.
Mosman’s opinion states:
“Plaintiffs take issue with the FBI operation that ultimately led to Mr. Finicum’s death. But an ‘undercover national security operation is a textbook example of discretionary action that Congress meant to insulate from judicial second-guessing.’”