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FBI agent indicted in relation to LaVoy Finicum shooting

by Sam Rolley

FBI special agent W. Joseph Astarita, one of the officers on the scene when Malheur Wildlife Refuge protester  LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed last January, has been indicted on charges that he lied about whether he discharged his firearm during the shooting.

According to reports, the agent faces a charge of making false allegations with the intent to obstruct justice.

The indictment notes that Astarita “falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of Robert La Voy Finicum, when he knew then and there that he had fired his weapon.” The indictment adds that the agent “acted with the intent to hinder, delay and prevent the communication of information” needed to conduct a thorough investigation into Finicum’s killing.

A report from Oregon Live last year indicated that police believed an FBI agent attempted to conceal evidence that he fired on Finicum while the victim was still traveling down the road in his truck.

From that report:

Five FBI agents assigned to the traffic stop told investigators that none of them fired at Finicum’s Dodge pickup after it crashed at their roadblock. Oregon investigators, however, concluded that one agent fired twice at the truck, hitting it once in the roof and missing on the second shot.

A state trooper later described to investigators seeing two rifle casings in the area where the agents were posted. Detectives tasked with collecting evidence didn’t find the casings, police reports indicate.

FBI aerial surveillance video shows that before the detectives could get there, the FBI agents searched the area with flashlights and then huddled, according to law enforcement sources who have seen the video. The group then broke and one agent appeared to bend over twice and pick up something near where the two shots likely were taken, the sources told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Despite the shocking video of how Finicum’s last moments unfolded, a court declared that officers involved in killing the activist acted justifiably.

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