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Fri, 5 Feb 2016 18:23:58 GMT
By Josh Hoffner and Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
KANAB, Utah — The funeral for the Arizona rancher killed by law enforcement during the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge was expected to draw supporters Friday from around the West to a small Utah town.
Authorities shot Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, 54, during a Jan. 26 traffic stop after they say he reached for a gun in his jacket pocket. His supporters called it an ambush after Finicum and others took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and demanded the federal government relinquish public lands to local control.
His death inspired a call for like-minded followers to come to Kanab, Utah, for his funeral. The day's events, billed as "LaVoy Finicum's Stand for Freedom," include a visitation and funeral, followed by a memorial horse ride to a local middle school for a benefit concert.
The events could draw up to 1,000 people, including many from Kanab and the nearby towns of Fredonia and Cane Beds, Arizona, where Finicum lived, said Sgt. Alan Alldredge of the Kane County Sheriff's Office. Others are expected to come from Nevada and elsewhere in Arizona.
"They've kind of put the call out nationwide," Alldredge said.
Sheriff's officials and the Utah Highway Patrol will be on hand to ensure the events are peaceful and orderly. Given the anti-government sentiment expected among the crowd, Alldredge said local law enforcement agencies have pleaded with the FBI and other federal agents to stay away.
"We've kind of asked them to stay away, and they say they will," Alldredge said.
The FBI has released video of Finicum's shooting to try to quell claims that it was not justified. The aerial footage shows Finicum's vehicle plowing into a snowbank when encountering a roadblock and nearly striking an officer.
A man identified as Finicum gets out of the truck. At first, he has his hands up, but then appears to reach toward his pocket and is shot. The FBI says he had a loaded handgun in the pocket.
An undisclosed number of Oregon State Police involved in the shooting are on leave pending an investigation by an outside police agency, which is standard procedure.
One of the protesters who stood with Finicum at the Oregon refuge hopes to attend the funeral. Shawna Cox is from Kanab, and a judge released her from jail with conditions including an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet.
The standoff began Jan. 2, with the group demanding the government change federal land policies and free two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. A total of 16 people have been indicted on a federal charge, including four occupiers who remain at the refuge. Just three, including Cox, have been allowed to leave jail ahead of trial.
Defense attorneys have said their clients engaged in civil disobedience and are being punished for political speech. They say the only use of force during the standoff was by police who shot Finicum.
The government says that once the occupation began, the group brandished firearms to keep officials from carrying out their duties, threatened violence and intimidated locals "to effectuate the goals of the conspiracy."
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press