30 June, 2017
Former FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita has been indicted on five counts for allegedly lying to investigators about firing his weapon at Finicum during a traffic stop of occupation leaders.
Washington [U.S.A.], June 29: An FBI agent was indicted on charges of making false statements and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to authorities about firing two gunshots in connection with the fatal shooting of LaVoy Finicum in OR a year ago. He also twice lied about the firing to Oregon State Police investigators, which in turn stopped them from alerting federal authorities about his obstruction of justice, the indictment alleged. After his court appearance, he was released on his own recognizance.
When he appeared to reach for the loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun police said was tucked into the inside pocket of his denim jacket, Oregon State Police opened fire.
Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said during a press conference that Astarita was not placed on administrative leave, and the investigation into FBI actions is ongoing. Dozens of people had taken over the wildlife refuge to protest federal control of land.
Investigators determined the troopers were justified in shooting Finicum but also found the Federal Bureau of Investigation hadn't disclosed that someone on their team had fired two shots.
The federal Office of the Inspector General has been reviewing the shooting since OR investigators revealed their suspicions of a possible cover up in March 2016.
At a Portland news conference Wednesday, Nelson said he and investigators from his office went to Washington, D.C., past year to inform Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe of his agency's findings.
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According to the indictment, Astarita made a false statement to three different supervisory special agents, all of whom are identified only by initials for security reasons.
Astarita was released on his own recognizance, but is scheduled to go on trial on August 2. Neither round hit Finicum.
An FBI spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The leaders of the occupation, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were taken into custody at the roadside where Finicum was shot dead.
"I'm encouraged. I'm thrilled that the grand jury came back with this finding, " Finicum's widow Jeannette Finicum reportedly said.
Finicum was en route to a meeting at the John Day Senior Center when law enforcement officers attempted to stop his vehicle, which contained several passengers including Ryan Bundy. With their leaders imprisoned, the occupation dwindled to a small, well-armed group of four who called Finicum's death an assassination and remained at the refuge until early February.
"I think they just marked him for death", said Thornton, a refuge occupier who was never indicted.