By Tim Baldwin
The FBI and Oregon police killed a rancher, Lavoy Finicum, last week. Lavoy joined Ammon Bundy, among others, for three weeks in occupying a refuge on public lands in Burns, Oregon. Like many Americans, the occupiers believed the Bureau of Land Management had been long abusing power. Police released one video of the incident (but not other pertinent surveillance). Was this killing lawful?
Under the Fourth Amendment, police who use deadly force have a burden to prove their actions were objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them based on the totality of the circumstances.
Regardless of one’s view of the occupation, the video raises issues regarding police actions: (1) Why block the highway in nowhere-ville? (2) Why use snipers and a dozen-plus officers? (3) Why not use spike strips to stop him? (4) When exactly was Lavoy likely to harm police? – when shot, Lavoy was facing no police, could barely walk in deep snow and held no gun. (5) Lavoy had not just committed a dangerous felony and fleeing therefrom. (6) Police had prior opportunities to serve an arrest warrant in a safe manner. (7) Why immediately rush Lavoy and spark conflict rather than contain the area and determine his actions?
The occupiers did not convince the greater part of society to aid them, given their seeming “state of war” approach. Still, if our laws can condemn Lavoy, they can also condemn police.
By Joe Carbonari
Why did they do it? Why do they care about the Malheur Bird Sanctuary, in the bleakness of winter in the high desert of interior Oregon? Perhaps because for many who feel that we should gain more local control of our federal lands, this is the northern end of a battlefield which stretches, aridly, down into Mexico.
There’s a line of thinking that goes: we “tamed” these lands, where it is very hard to make a living, and by “natural right” they are ours … with the responsibility to treat them beneficially. For some, such as the famous Bundys, they say it is God’s will for which they will fight. They can get carried away … deaths can follow. Please do not encourage this line of thought. It is understandable, but not acceptable. It is not an agreed upon “natural right.” Working the land does not convey ownership.
The right to use or to grant use of lands controlled by the federal government, as these lands were settled, lay with us, all the people of this country. Our government administers those lands kept or obtained for all of us, for a variety of reasons. The values of general scenery, as in parts of the Grand Canyon, and species protection, as at the Malheur Bird Sanctuary, are among those realized.
Local input in federal land use decisions? Absolutely! Protests? Sure! Discussions? Without end. But let’s keep the guns out of it.