FBI Agent Indicted for Lying About Shooting in Oregon Refuge Standoff

By Rachel Alexander Published on July 6, 2017

An FBI agent has been indicted for lying to state and federal investigators about firing at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a showdown between law enforcement and protesters last year in Oregon.

On June 20, a grand jury in the U.S. District Court of Oregon indicted Joseph Astarita on three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice. Astarita is a member of the FBI’s hostage rescue team.

Oregon state police shot and killed Finicum on January 26, 2016. He was fleeing a surprise traffic stop on a rural highway near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where he was holed up with other protesters. He crashed his truck into a snow bank and jumped out.

An autopsy determined that three rounds shot by state police killed him. The U.S. Attorney for Oregon said the shots were “necessary and justified,” since Finicum appeared to be reaching for his gun.

The shooting coverup adds to existing controversy over Finicum’s killing.

Investigators discovered that someone else fired as well before Finicum left his truck. One round went into the roof of the truck. Astarita failed to tell Oregon police officers that he shot two rounds at Finicum. He also failed to tell the FBI’s Shooting Incident Response Team. Suspicions were aroused when two shell casings disappeared from the scene. A state trooper said he saw them.

Detectives who swept the scene later did not find them. An eyewitness told The Oregonian that he saw an FBI agent pick something off the ground. The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general began a criminal investigation into the agents last year.

Escalating Controversy

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson blasted the FBI agents. During a press conference last week, he said their actions “damaged the integrity of the entire law enforcement profession, which makes me both disappointed and angry.”

The shooting coverup adds to existing controversy over Finicum’s killing. The FBI released an aerial surveillance video of the shooting last year. It went viral, as supporters of the occupiers asserted it did not show Finicum reaching for his gun. Some believe he reached to put his hand over his wound after being shot. A video (warning: very graphic content) taken by a passenger in the truck shows a bullet hitting the roof before he allegedly reached for his gun. Some accuse law enforcement of shooting him without provocation in the back.

Finicum’s widow, Jeannette Finicum, was glad to hear about the indictment. She added, “I believe there’s more that needs to be done; there were other officers involved in the coverup.” The trial may reveal why Astarita lied. The judge arraigned him last week. Astarita pled not guilty. The judge released him pending future court appearances. The other four FBI team members may still be under investigation for their role in the alleged coverup.

A federal jury acquitted the leaders of the Oregon occupation, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and five others in October of conspiracy charges. However, a jury convicted four other occupiers in a trial earlier this year on multiple charges including damaging government property and trespassing.

Still Facing Charges

The Bundys are still facing charges from a standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. Cliven is the father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who led the occupation. The Bundys are embroiled in a long-running legal dispute with the government over their use of federal land for cattle grazing. The federal government owns 84.9 percent of the land in Nevada. After the government seizes privately owned land, it leases it back to ranchers at an escalating price. This angers ranchers like Cliven Bundy.

Federal agents confronted Bundy and his supporters in 2014, resulting in an armed showdown. It deescalated peacefully, but federal authorities pursued criminal charges against the Bundys and others present.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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  • Wayne Cook

    Praying that would come to light since he did!

  • Gary

    Finicum was murdered by whoever it was that shot him. Never trust law enforcement, or the courts.

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      That’s as ungodly, unbiblical advice as one could give.

  • Paul

    Interesting how the Bundys were denied bail while awaiting trial but the FBI agent is released awaiting further court appearances. Also Cliven Bundy remains jailed without ail awaiting trial. No double standard there.

  • Paul

    The other part here that is interesting is the charges, if the FBI agent fired at Finicum while he was still in the truck, wouldn’t that also be attempted murder?

  • Timov

    Astarita will mysteriously die before the trial, no doubt.

  • Jeff Bounds

    This is so bad…………Watch that documentary taken during the standoff………..and actual footage of the death incident…..They just bumped the guy off……………He was a good guy……The government simply got rid of him as an inconvenience. The town was 30 miles away and they closed the schools, courthouse….it was a joke. Nobody even knew why……. Another Waco where they burned all those little kids…..and then erased it.

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      A good guy? Are you kidding me? Never mind he was a Mormon and that’s all the evidence one needs to know he wasn’t a “good guy” (Biblically speaking), he very own words and actions show otherwise. He got what he asked for – suicide by cop.

  • American

    Lest we forget who was in charge … Obama

  • Aurellia Richey

    Murderer behind a badge again hands down

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      Not even close. And if it had been “hands up and flat on the ground” there would be no discussion.

  • Hector Zambrano

    How is this compared too Benghazi

  • disqus_mK7HIFcUWD

    I said from the very beginning Murder. They have tried to bury it with investigations and Red Tape but the truth will come out. It was intentional on all their parts but they will use one guy as the fall guy.

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      And I’ve said from the very beginning that if Finicum and the Bundy’s had obeyed the authorities this would’ve never happened. When a Police Officer tells you to do something, you do it. Then later you deal with it appropriately if it was not lawful.

      This truck ran from a traffic stop and plowed into a snowbank. Finicum disobeyed the orders of the police officer’s and if it looked like he might be going for a gun, I standby the PO’s and I don’t expect them to have to wait until the nutjob pulls his gun out and starts firing.

  • Paul

    Rachel, consider bringing deeper Second Amendment content to the Stream. The recent SCOTUS decline to hear Peruta was a 2A tragedy and Stream is basically silent on the matter.

  • bbb

    And the Bundys are being forced to attend their court appearance in chains and manacles which automatically telegraphs to the jury they are too guilty to try.
    But, what punishment is given to a coddled FBI person?
    This whole thing precluded Obama’s Christmas Grinch land grab that snatched 84% of Utah for the Federal Government. Why? Ah, follow the money. Rare ores lie in that land, and all the photos so far are of Arches, not Bear Ears country.
    Can God bless liars? No.
    The lie epidemic began under Clinton and it has become a plague worse than bubonic plague.
    America will suffer as long as the tyrannical government continues to cover up, lie, obfuscate and obstruct.
    Pray for America. Pray morning and night and pray on your knees to God Almighty. We need miracles to survive.

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