Finicum Shooting: Was Bundy Driver/“Bodyguard” an FBI Agent Provocateur?
There is a startling omission in a newly released official “Incident Report” on the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum that has reopened controversy over a key figure in the Oregon standoff with federal authorities. Recent Facebook postings by supporters of the occupation point to the conspicuous exclusion of this individual’s name in the 360-page report released last week as further evidence that he is “the informant and rat” who betrayed Finicum, Ammon Bundy, and the other occupiers.
He has been described in numerous news stories as Ammon Bundy’s “bodyguard.” He was regarded by many inside and outside of the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary in Oregon as one of the activists in charge of “security” for the occupiers. On the afternoon of January 26, he was the driver of the lead vehicle carrying Ammon Bundy and another fellow occupier, Bryan “Buddha” Cavalier, to a meeting with the sheriff of neighboring Grant County. Accusers say he was knowingly leading Bundy and Cavalier, as well as the following vehicle driven by Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum into a deadly trap.
His name is Mark McConnell (shown). He is identified in various news accounts as a 37-year-old truck driver from Buckeye, Arizona. After LaVoy Finicum was shot to death at an Oregon State Police/FBI roadblock, McConnell was arrested, along with the other surviving occupants of the two vehicles: Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp. However, shortly after being taken into custody, Sharp and McConnell were released. Sharp’s early release is understandable: She is an 18-year-old minor and was involved only as a member of the Sharp Family Singers, who briefly provided moral support to the occupiers by singing hymns and patriotic songs. McConnell, however, is a different story.
McConnell was considered a “ringleader” of sorts by various witnesses/supporters who had been to the Oregon occupation and were interviewed by The New American. He had been deeply involved in all of the activities for which his fellow occupiers are being charged with multiple felonies and federal conspiracy crimes. And, according to one former occupier we interviewed, who has asked to remain anonymous, McConnell was the only occupant of the two vehicles who was wearing a loaded sidearm at the time of the arrest on January 26. This claim is reinforced by testimony from an arresting officer identified only as “Officer 7” in the recently released official report of the shooting conducted by a “Tri-County Major Incident Team” composed of investigators from three Oregon county sheriffs’ offices. Although Officer 7’s testimony concerns only McConnell’s vehicle, other statements released by officials thus far indicate that while there were firearms recovered from Finicum’s vehicle, none of the other occupants was carrying or wearing a firearm.
Officer 7 was asked by the incident investigator if any occupants of the lead vehicle, McConnell’s Jeep, were armed when arrested. Officer 7 responds (on page 211): “Yes, um … the only person that I ... observed with a weapon — what I recall was the driver, uh, I recall seein — I believe he had a pistol on his right … hip.”
That would be a reference to Mark McConnell, the driver. Yet, not only was McConnell released without charge, his name does not even appear among those arrested......'