Now Playing:

News

News | local | An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Documents: OSP Moved Fatal Traffic Stop To Avoid Grant County Sheriff


After 41 days, an armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge came to a conclusion on Feb. 11 after four remaining militants at the refuge surrendered to federal authorities.

During an interview with investigators about the shooting death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an OSP officer said officials were originally considering a location in Grant County for the traffic stop operation, a newly released investigation report shows.

Had the stop occurred in Grant County, then the group would have been closer to Sheriff Glenn Palmer, and the entire interaction would have taken place within Palmer’s jurisdiction.

And that’s exactly why law enforcement opted not to make the traffic stop within Grant County boundaries, said the OSP officer, identified in the documents as “Officer No. 1.”

Law enforcement designed the Jan. 26 stop to arrest leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

“I knew going into it that there was a sheriff in Grant County that was supporting the movement or the ideology behind what [the occupiers] were pushing,” Officer No. 1 told investigators.

“I knew that there was a large amount of community members in Grant County that supported their beliefs … for a very simple way to put it it, they were not friendly to law enforcement conducting any enforcement actions, and mainly the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal agencies,” the officer said.

The change of plan, which was coordinated by the FBI and OSP, is noteworthy because the militant group was reportedly planning to meet with Palmer.

In video released this week, Finicum can be heard yelling out the window of his parked truck to OSP officers.

“I’m going over to meet with the Sheriff in Grant County,” Finicum shouted. “You can come along with us and talk with us over there.”

  “That day there was discussions about a location which was actually in Grant County,” Officer No. 1 told investigators. “It was a large canyon that had tactically beneficial areas, and through the planning process, as you now know, we moved the location where we were going to conduct this traffic stop and arrest to — into Harney County.”

The arrest of the militant leaders, including Ammon Bundy, and the shooting of Finicum did eventually take place in Harney County along Highway 395.

Sheriff Palmer has said that he met with some of the occupiers prior to the Jan. 26 incident but has denied that he was planning to meet with the militants that night.

The state agency that licenses law enforcement officers has recommended the state Department of Justice investigate Palmer’s conduct. That’s after the agency received several formal complaints about Palmer’s communication with the occupiers. The DOJ has not yet announced whether it will pursue an investigation into Sheriff Palmer.

Palmer did not return OPB’s requests for comment.

On Thursday, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office released a redacted report of the investigation into the Jan. 26 officer-involved shooting death of Finicum, a leader of the occupation at the refuge.

The 360-page report from the Central Oregon Major Incident Team is only part of the investigation. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said more documents would be made available as redactions are complete.

Investigators said at a Tuesday press conference that eight shots were fired that day — six from the OSP and two by members of the FBI hostage rescue team. The two shots fired by FBI officials will be the subject of another investigation, because the agents did not initially disclose firing at Finicum.

The interviews of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team are not included in Thursday’s release because they’re part of the ongoing investigation by the Federal Inspector General’s Office.

More News

More OPB