Rancher LaVoy Finicum's Family Seeks $70 Million In Wrongful Death Suit

By Amelia Templeton (OPB)
Jan. 26, 2018 6:50 p.m.

The family of Arizona rancher Robert LaVoy Finicum has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District court, seeking $70 million in damages.

The lawsuit alleges  a wide-ranging government conspiracy to target political supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy, including Finicum.


That conspiracy led Oregon State Police and FBI agents to shoot Finicum during an attempt to arrest the leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation on Jan. 26, 2016, the suit alleges.

“Defendants were mentally predisposed and committed to using excessive lethal force to solve a political dispute,” wrote the family’s attorneys, Lisa Ludwig and J. Morgan Philpot.

Related: Finicum Shooting Investigators Release Bundy Cellphone Video

Law enforcement officers shot and killed Finicum along Highway 395 between Burns and John Day after he refused to surrender at a traffic stop and fled in his truck. Finicum was on his way to a community meeting in John Day. Refuge takeover organizers Ammon and Ryan Bundy were also arrested in the traffic stop.

The lawsuit names multiple government agencies, law enforcement officers and Democratic politicians as defendants, including the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Ron Wyden, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, and former Harney County Judge Steven Grasty.

The suit also singles out former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Former FBI Director James Comey, and Greg Bretzing, the former FBI Special Agent in Charge in Oregon.

The environmental group The Center For Biological Diversity is also listed as a defendant in the case, without further explanation.


The center's executive director, Kierán Suckling, called the lawsuit "bizarre" and "incoherent."

“Frivolous lawsuits and accusations of murder, assassination and secret government conspiracies are blatant intimidation tactics to silence defenders of America’s public lands," he said.

A 2016 investigation by the Central Oregon major crimes team into Finicum’s death concluded that Oregon State Police officers who fired the three shots that killed Finicum were justified in using deadly force because they feared for their lives.

Finicum had fled a traffic stop while traveling at a high speed in his truck, and was armed at the time he was shot. Law enforcement officials say video of the incident showed Finicum reaching toward his pocket, presumably for the gun.

That investigation also revealed that an FBI agent had fired two shots at Finicum and allegedly lied to cover up his actions.

Agent Joseph Astarita was indicted for lying and obstructing justice.

Related: FBI Agent Indicted In Finicum Shooting Identified

At the time, Fincum’s family said they were unsatisfied with the Central Oregon investigation and said they wanted an “independent” investigation.

In the wrongful death lawsuit, the family’s attorneys argue that a wide-ranging government conspiracy began after the Bundy family’s 2014 standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents in Bunkerville Nevada.

It notes that Finicum had no history of engaging in violence, and that his hands were up when he was shot.

The lawsuit alleges Finicum was targeted because of his association with the Bundy family, his Mormon faith, and his political activism and criticism of the BLM.