One year after authorities shot dead an armed militant during the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, a former Kansas teen who drew national attention for having witnessed the killing says she wants to move on with her life.
Seen for a time as a young messenger for patriotism, Victoria Sharp, 19, told The Star that the so-called “patriot movement” has its problems.
“I want to see patriots who get up and make a difference, rather than rant on social media about how bad our country is, yet are not doing anything to make their own communities better,” she said.
In early 2016 Sharp, who then lived in Montana, joined seven of her siblings from Auburn, Kan. — the Sharp Family Singers — with their mother to perform gospel and patriotic music for ranchers who had taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest of federal control of the land.
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On her way to a family performance, Sharp on Jan. 26 was seated in a pickup driven by Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a member of the standoff, when he caromed through a law enforcement roadblock. Finicum got out of the truck and was shot in a snowbank.
Sharp, dubbed the “Patriot Princess,” spoke out on national news broadcasts, talk radio and in social media that Finicum had raised his hands and was “killed unjustly.” The Drudge Report turned her story viral. Some in the patriot movement heralded the teen as a truth-telling “Mockingjay,” heroine of the Hunger Games series.
But aerial footage of the shooting showed Finicum reaching for his coat pocket, where he had a loaded handgun, when authorities fired at him.
Sharp this week said she still thinks Finicum’s death was unjustified: “He had a huge heart. His death was a tragedy that I will never forget...
“I still believe in the message that the ranchers who went to Oregon were presenting to the public.”
In October a jury acquitted standoff leader Ammon Bundy and other occupiers who had been charged with illegal firearms possession and conspiracy to impede federal officers. An investigation also cleared the officers who shot at Finicum.
Sharp’s tumultuous year included her father’s custody fight for the younger Sharp Family Singers. A Shawnee County District Court hearing in May resulted in Sharp’s mother losing custody.
Now living in Colorado with father Tim Sharp and managing a cafeteria, Sharp said the events of last January still traumatize her. On a good night she’ll sleep four or five hours, she said. Just Wednesday while driving, she was involved in a car accident in which “I had a flashback to that truck,” she said. “I went back to that moment...
“The more I associate with that entire episode, the more my life can’t move forward,” she said, so she’s trying to put her brief notoriety behind her.
Tim Sharp said that while his children endured an experience in Oregon that youngsters shouldn’t go through, Victoria has made strides in putting the episode in perspective. “She is stronger,” he said.
Today she sees much of the patriot movement emboldening too many “law enforcement haters ... (who) say that anyone who supports law enforcement cannot be a patriot. That is simply wrong, and I will not associate myself with those kind of people.
“I want to see a ‘patriot movement’ that has its main focus on making a difference in their individual communities. That is what patriotism is about.”