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Supporters of Oregon occupier honor LaVoy Finicum at funeral



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KANAB — Most of the people who came to the funeral of LaVoy Finicum didn't know the Arizona rancher personally.

They came anyway, in trucks and campers and caravans, drawn either by kinship with the Finicum family or by sympathy for the cause that took him to rural Oregon.

The Arizona rancher was one of the most recognizable faces of the armed standoff in Oregon, where a group of protesters seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early January to protest what they said was federal overreach into Western rangelands.

Finicum was shot dead by police on Jan. 26 in a confrontation that has inflamed the divide between supporters of the standoff and law enforcement officials.

Roughly 1,000 people packed into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building Friday for the funeral service, spilling over into the classrooms and hallways.

Cliven Bundy — a prominent Nevada rancher whose longstanding dispute with the Bureau of Land Management flared up into a standoff in 2014 — joined the Finicum family for the service.

He told reporters Finicum had been "crucified."

His sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, led the monthlong armed occupation in Oregon before being arrested in the same operation that resulted in Finicum's death.

Several men who did not appear to be with any law enforcement agency walked around the church with handguns, highlighting a somewhat tense event where almost as many attendees were filming reporters as there were reporters recording the event.

Kane County Sheriff Tracy Glover said he asked the FBI and BLM officials to stay away from town to "de-escalate the emotion of the day."

The local BLM office was closed Friday.

At the service, family members remembered Finicum as a loving father who doted on his children and took his religion and patriotism seriously.

To the attendees who knew him only through anecdotes — quickly becoming legend — Finicum was a martyr, however reluctant.

"My dad wanted a simple funeral," daughter Thana Tenney said. "He just wanted a pine box."

Howdy Hardy, a fifth-generation cattle rancher from Nevada, called Finicum a "hero."

Hardy described how his family lost parcel after parcel of grazing land after the government began restricting use to protect the threatened desert tortoise.

Acres and acres of land that he plowed and nurtured — which contained several springs that his great-great-grandfather dug by hand — are now protected from grazing, Hardy said.

He and his brother are tough men. They closed down the ranch in 2008, and Hardy is now in trucking.

But the day his brother had to lay off 25 employees, Hardy said he saw him on his knees in his office, crying.

"We're talking hard work, back-breaking work," said Hardy, showing off scars on his hands and wrists from barbed wire. "All of a sudden they're in control."

Scott Hagman, a fellow cattle rancher from the Uinta Basin who was discussing politics with Hardy, said he's "not an anarchist."

Hagman likes that the government preserves national parks where he can take his kids and grandkids. But he came to the funeral because "I feel that same oppression that this family is going through," he said.

He has no love for law enforcement, describing how officials pointed rifles at him during the standoff in Nevada.

"The same thing I had in 'Nam," Hagman said.

He added: "The only reason they didn't shoot us in the face is because we had just as many guns pointing at them as they did at us."

At a news conference, Tenney announced the family would seek an independent investigation of the incident that resulted in her father's death.

Two days after the deadly event, the FBI took the unconventional step of releasing surveillance footage of the incident.

The aerial video shows Finicum exiting the vehicle in deep snow with his hands up, surrounded by police, before reaching toward his abdomen twice.

He then falls to the snowy ground, apparently shot by police.

Police said Finicum had a loaded handgun in his pocket.

The family says they believe Finicum was reaching for a wound in his side, not for a weapon.

Eyewitnesses who were in the truck with Finicum have said in interviews that police were shooting at them "hundreds" of times as they were driving away from the first traffic stop.

In contrast, an FBI spokesman said the number of shots fired was "in the single digits" and that Finicum took "reckless action that resulted in consequences."

"We don't want the media's bias," Tenney said at the news conference, flanked by Cliven Bundy and his son Arden. "We don't want the FBI's bias. We want truth."

She also bristled at reports that characterized her father as a militant or extremist.

"Our father … has been called many names by the world," Tenney said, her voice rising in anger. "But I'll tell you what we call him. We call him Daddy."

After the service, six men carried out Finicum's body in a plain pine box and loaded it into a hearse. Dozens of riders on horseback followed.

With four occupiers left at the federal wildlife refuge, it's unclear how much longer the Oregon standoff will continue.

Ammon Bundy, charged along with 15 others with conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force, has asked those remaining at the federal refuge to leave.

Lory Storm, a supporter who traveled from Oregon to Kanab for the funeral, scoffed at the idea the dispute was over.

"I see America being wrestled away from the federal government and back to the Constitution," Storm said, calling it a "knock-down, drag-out fight."

"Just watch what's going to happen over the next three to six weeks," Storm said. "Right now we're just burying a friend."

Daphne Chen

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