Events leading to LaVoy Finicum's death differ among supporters, militia members

Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum carries his rifle after standing guard all night at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, near Burns, Ore. With the takeover entering its fourth day Wednesday, authorities had not removed the group of roughly 20 people from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon's high desert country. But members of the group, some from as far away as Arizona and Michigan, were growing increasingly tense, saying they feared a federal raid. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer)

Some supporters of LaVoy Finicum, the Oregon occupier who was killed Tuesday night while eight others were arrested, say the 55-year-old rancher from Arizona was shot in the face while his hands were up.

Finicum was a vocal leader of the armed militia that spent more than three weeks occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in rural Harney County.

He would often speak during news conferences following Ammon Bundy, and said he was willing to die for the cause. KATU spoke with Finicum at the refuge about a week into the occupation.

"We're not walking away from here to have the federal government to come back in here. Absolutely not. That will not happen," he said.

Finicum said he had neither threatened nor harmed anyone during the occupation.

"I have grown up loving the fresh air. I love the elements. And this is where I'm going to breathe my last breath," he said. "... I'm not going to spend my last days in a cell. This world is too beautiful to spend it in a cell."

He then gave a message to his family: "And kids, if I don't come, you know I love you and I'm proud of every damn one of you."

Finicum was with five other occupiers en route to a community meeting in John Day Tuesday night when a violent confrontation ensued between the militia and the FBI.

The details of the confrontation still remain unknown, but Finicum's supporters and family say he was shot in the face while his hands were in the air:

"Christ was and is LaVoy's exemplar," his family said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Though there are evil and conspiring men at work, Christ still forgave the executioners for they knew not what they did."

Mark McConnell, a personal bodyguard to Ammon Bundy posted YouTube videos claiming LaVoy charged at law enforcement after his truck got stuck in a snowbank:

The rancher was media-savvy and tried to popularize and monetize his political beliefs on his website, He used the site to sell his book, a 252-page paperback titled "Only by Blood and Suffering," as well as T-shirts, bumper stickers and posters emblazoned with slogans like "Let Freedom Ring" and "Defend the Constitution Original Intent."

Finicum and his wife, Jeanette, raised dozens of foster children, though social workers removed the kids from the couple's home a few days after the occupation began.

Finicum said the foster kids were the family's main source of income.

Catholic Charities paid the family more than $115,000 in 2009 to foster children, according to tax filings. Foster parents are generally paid a small per-child amount by the government. It's intended to reimburse them for the costs incurred in fostering. The money sometimes is disbursed through nonprofit partners.

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