William Keebler was charged in late June for attempting to bomb a Bureau of Land Management cabin in a remote part of Arizona. The FBI’s criminal complaint, used to authorize an arrest warrant for the Utah resident, said Keebler had originally scouted the bomb target in October 2015 with LaVoy Finicum.
But the FBI now says Finicum possibly had no role in the alleged bomb plot.
Finicum, a spokesman for the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was shot and killed in a confrontation with Oregon state troopers on Jan. 26, and has since become a sort of martyr for the movement to turn federal lands over to local entities.
Finicum’s supposed involvement in the bombing plot made headlines, including a report by OPB.
Ongoing coverage of the federal case against the people involved in the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and how life has changed in Harney County, Oregon.
But the FBI’s correction to the record about Finicum was less visible. During Keebler’s detention hearing, FBI Agent Steve Daniels testified that Finicum had not accompanied Keebler on the reconnaissance mission.
“On the day that they did that recon, Keebler had gone down to Mr. Finicum’s residence to conduct a recon,” Daniels said. “The day of the recon, LaVoy Finicum had a … I believe he attended a rodeo for either a daughter or family member. So, he didn’t go with them on that recon. Another, I want to say militia commander went on that recon, and showed him around the property.”
Keebler had been visiting Finicum’s property on that day, the agent testified, but he did not clarify whether Finicum had involvement with the bomb plot, or if he even knew about it.
“My husband was not involved, he would never have been involved in something as horrendous as that,” said Jeanette Finicum, LaVoy’s widow. “Had he known that [Keebler] was doing such a thing, my husband would have turned him in himself.”
Jeanette Finicum confirmed that Keebler did visit with her husband sometime in 2015. But she said he was just an acquaintance.
“My husband had talked with him about some security for our ranch, because my husband was taking his own stand with the BLM,” said Jeanette Finicum. Keebler attended Finicum’s funeral, and also provided security at two events protesting her husband’s death, she said.
For Jeanette Finicum and many of her husband’s supporters, the misinformation about LaVoy Finicum in the criminal complaint is another strike against the FBI’s credibility.
During the investigation into Finicum’s death, it was revealed that FBI agents fired two shots at his vehicle that were initially not disclosed to the joint task force in charge of the investigation. Those shots, and possible misconduct by FBI agents to conceal those shots, are still under investigation by the federal Inspector General’s Office.
A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuting Keebler’s case explained that it’s not uncommon for details to be later corrected in a criminal complaint.
“The complaint is done when we need to get an arrest warrant,” said Melody Rydalch spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “As the investigation continues, there could very well be things that we learn that we need to supplement the complaint. You’re working in a fast-developing situation.”
When OPB asked about the FBI’s responsibility to correct the record about Finicum’s involvement, Rydalch said, “Our duty of candor is to the court. If something is wrong or misleading then we correct it with the court.”
Keebler’s official indictment includes no mention of Finicum. If convicted, Keebler could face up to 20 years in prison for attempting to destroy federal property by means of fire and an explosive.