The FBI has released video of the Finicum shooting in Oregon. We’ve been hearing competing stories about it: some have said that he was kneeling in surrender, his arms raised above his head, when the FBI gunned him down in cold blood. Others have said he was charging the police like Rooster Cogburn at the end of True Grit, demanding a hero’s death.
The video shows why both stories are going around. Finicum’s car crashes into the snow at a roadblock. He jumps out, arms held up, and runs away from the road, as if he thinks he can escape. But he’s surrounded. There are agents all around. He stops. He turns around. He lowers his arms and fumbles at his belt. Someone shoots, and he falls to the ground. The camera pans around (it’s on a helicopter or drone, and there is no sound), and you see a few brief flashes of gunfire and smoke — I can’t tell whether the occupants of the car are firing or being shot at. Then there is a few minutes of agents standing around, not ducking for cover, before the occupants begin to emerge with their hands up. Finicum’s body is lying in the snow, not moving.
So it’s a little of all of the stories. I think Finicum was in the heat of anger, ran out with the idea of escaping somehow, saw it was hopeless, and fumbled for a gun. I’d rather the law exercised more restraint — I could imagine that if he did pull a gun, he’d have waved it around in futile bravado before dropping it as the hopelessness of his situation sunk in — but I wasn’t there, and I can sympathize with the officers not wanting to risk getting shot at.
What a waste.