By Lee Williams
SAF Investigative Journalism Project
Nowadays, the ATF operates above the law, and it’s become clear that despite their frequent high crimes and civil rights abuse, no one in the federal government is going to hold the agency accountable as long as Joe Biden occupies the White House.
But one Oklahoma state representative isn’t satisfied with waiting for the feds or anyone else to intervene. He’s got a plan to stop ATF’s illegal abuses right now, and unlike other loftier elected officials, he’s taking action, personally. He’s not just pontificating about the problem in front of a bank of microphones.
“The ATF is coming for our guns, and if we let them do this with no pushback, they will do it more,” said Oklahoma state Rep. Justin “JJ” Humphrey, (R-Lane).
A story published Tuesday revealed that Humphrey sent a letter to Oklahoma’s Governor, Attorney General and other law enforcement officials demanding an investigation into the ATF raid on the home of one of his constituents, Russell Fincher, a parttime gun dealer, high school history teacher and Baptist pastor.
According to a press release, Humphrey said he was contacted by Fincher after a dozen ATF SWAT team members bearing “automatic weapons” raided Fincher’s home, handcuffed him on his porch in front of his 13-year-old son and coerced and threatened him into relinquishing his Federal Firearm License.
“If this report is true, and I have every reason to believe it is, then it would appear the ATF’s actions constitute a gross misuse and abuse of their federal police powers,” Humphrey said in the press release.
Fincher, Humphrey wrote in the letter, “is a distinguished figure in our community, serving both as pastor and schoolteacher in the small community of Clayton, Oklahoma. He is known as a respected member of the community, and I have every reason to believe his account. If proven true, the actions of the ATF agents could be seen as a severe misuse and abuse of their federal law enforcement authority.”
READ FULL TEXT OF LETTER BELOW
On Tuesday, Humphrey told the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project how he arrived at this decision.
“When I first got the call, I didn’t immediately call Russell back,” Humphrey said. “I called his neighbors who I know in the community and asked what kind of guy he is and what do you all know about him. I haven’t found a single person who had anything negative to say about this guy. You typically don’t see the pastor being the criminal. He’s also a history teacher. He’s got a degree. He’s got multiple incomes, including selling guns. I’ve done thousands of pre-sentence investigations, and I know how to find out info about people. If Russell had an ex-wife, I would have called her, too. All of my reference checks show that Russell Fincher is a real decent good guy.”
Humphrey is no-nonsense elected official who thoroughly understands right from wrong. He’s a cattle rancher with a degree in Criminal Justice who spent 35 years in law enforcement, including 20 years as a probation and parole officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Humphrey is not the type of official to excuse the use of excessive force on one of his constituents.
“On the surface, it appears ATF abused their position, extorted Russell and it appears they used terroristic threats,” Humphrey said. “That alone more than warrants an investigation into these ATF officers. That’s what I’m asking for. The fact they’re officers doesn’t mean they can’t violate the law. If they used their badges to do it, it’s even worse.”
What we know
Humphrey has not seen the affidavit for the search warrant ATF obtained before they raided Fincher’s home. Agents obtained the warrant from a magistrate, not a judge. He takes issue with how the warrant was executed, especially since Fincher invited the agents to his home.
“If you’re cooperative, do I show up 12 deep?” Humphrey asked. “Why did they do that?”
Agents found nothing illegal or even questionable during their search, he said. It was their second attempt to find something criminal on Fincher.
“They ran a confidential informant at him, to get him to illegally sell them a gun, which he refused to do,” Humphrey said. “How did they obtain their warrant? It seems pretty shaky. What did they tell the magistrate? What did they base their search warrant on? Did they illegally obtain their search warrant based on fraudulent info? That’s perjury and abuse of office. Those are the things we’re looking at.”
Humphrey took issue with how ATF agents intimidated Fincher into “voluntarily” surrendering his Federal Firearm License. Agents handcuffed Fincher on his porch in front of his 13-year-old son, while yelling and screaming about possible federal charges, until Fincher relented and said he’d self-terminate his FFL. One of the agents had three copies of the needed paperwork.
“This guy has on his person not one but three copies of termination paperwork?” Humphrey said. “This reveals their true intent.”
Humphrey knows a state-run criminal investigation could have a chilling effect on ATF’s misdeeds across the country. At the very least, it would force ATF Special Agent Theodore Mongell, who led the raid on Fincher’s home, to explain his probable cause under oath, as well as why he believed the pastor and his son were such a threat that ATF needed to hit their home with a heavily armed SWAT team. It would also force Agent Mongell to admit or deny the threats he reportedly made to other gun dealers.
“You tell all your FFL buddies we are coming for them. We are shutting the gun shows down,” Fincher recalled Mongell saying during the raid.
“This is terroristic threats, and I think these terroristic threats are really easy to prove,” Humphrey said. “They’re using their police powers to intimidate, extort and threaten.”
A GiveSendGo account has been created to help with Fincher’s legal fees.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.
Via Electronic Mail
Attorney General Gentner Drummond
Office of the Attorney General
313 NE 21st Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Pushmataha County Sheriff B.J. Hedgecock
Pushmataha County Sheriffs Office
207 SW 3rd Street
Antlers, OK 74523
Gov. Kevin J. Stitt
Honorable Gov. Kevin J. Stitt
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Suite 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
All Oklahoma judicial authorities and other law enforcement entities:
On approximately July 27, 2023, I, Rep. Justin “JJ” Humphrey, received a report from Russell Fincher, a citizen of District 19 in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. He expressed concerns that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had violated his constitutional and civil rights. Mr. Fincher claimed that the officers’ actions appeared intentional, and they deliberately employed intimidation tactics to coerce him into surrendering his federal firearms license.
Mr. Fincher is a distinguished figure in our community, serving both as pastor and schoolteacher in the small community of Clayton, Oklahoma. He is known as a respected member of the community, and I have every reason to believe his account. If proven true, the actions of the ATF agents could be seen as a severe misuse and abuse of their federal law enforcement authority.
In addition to his roles within the community, Mr. Fincher operates a small secondary firearms business. He reported that ATF agents conducted a series of home visits and phone calls to investigate potential irregularities in his firearms business. He cooperated fully, allowing agents to enter his home and answering all questions. He reported that agents attempted an illegal firearm purchase, which he refused. Despite his cooperation and refusal to engage in an illegal sale, agents conducted a raid on his home in Clayton, Oklahoma.
Mr. Fincher detailed that numerous armed ATF agents stormed into his home, pointing automatic weapons at both him and his 13-year-old son. They handcuffed Mr. Fincher, yelled at him, and used intimidating tactics to terrify both him and his son. After the invasion, Mr. Fincher stated he asked the agents, “Do you want me to terminate my firearm license?” One of the lead agents presented three preprepared documents for the termination of his federal firearms license. Mr. Fincher claimed that the intent of the raid was evidently to coerce him into terminating his license. He said agents pressured him to declare that he was willingly signing the three prepared termination papers. He explained that he felt coerced due to the armed agents and the threatening environment. He likened the agents’ actions to extortion rather than a proper law enforcement search. One agent reportedly warned, “Tell your firearms buddies we are coming after them.” If true, this statement appears to be an unlawful threat by the agent.
Based on Russell Fincher’s report, there is a strong likelihood that ATF agents manipulated or used unlawful methods to obtain a search warrant. Beyond the legality of the warrant, it seems that the agents exploited their law enforcement powers to intimidate Mr. Fincher into relinquishing his federal firearms license. Drawing from my approximately 35 years of law enforcement experience, I find the reported actions of the agents, in this case, to be on par with extortion and likely a violation of civil rights. The agents’ statement to Mr. Fincher, “We are coming after your firearms friends,” constitutes a clear threat and another instance of misuse of their authority. If proven true, these actions by the agent would be illegal and considered a terroristic threat.
I am forwarding this report to all relevant Oklahoma authorities and requesting a thorough investigation to determine whether Mr. Fincher’s Second and Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution have been violated.
I believe the investigation should encompass the following:
- Whether ATF agents abused their law enforcement powers to coerce and extort Mr. Fincher into terminating his federal firearms license.
- Whether agents issued threats against firearms dealers in Oklahoma.
As an Oklahoma State Representative for the citizens of District 19, I consider it my duty to assert that our state should not permit the intentional and egregious actions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to infringe upon the rights of Oklahomans to possess and carry firearms. As a legislative body, we have enacted laws to grant law-abiding citizens the right to constitutionally carry firearms and to prohibit the unlawful seizure of such firearms by federal agents under our county sheriff’s jurisdiction.
I respectfully urge this investigation to determine whether any of our state laws were violated in the alleged raid on Russell Fincher. The citizens of District 19 and the broader community have a right to understand the facts surrounding this incident. I have faith in the thoroughness and objectivity of your office, and your dedication to justice will prevail.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this issue. I anticipate your response and any updates on the course of action that will be taken to address these concerns.
State Representative Justin JJ Humphrey
District 19 Chair,
Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee