losangelesnewstoday.com April 24, 2018

Federal Bureau of Investigation agent indicted for actions following LaVoy Finicum shooting

30 June 2017, 12:45 | Katrina Lee

Blaine Cooper left and La Voy Finicum two of the men occupying the grounds at Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

Blaine Cooper left and La Voy Finicum two of the men occupying the grounds at Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

An FBI agent is facing federal charges for allegedly lying about his role in the deadly shooting of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum in OR, an Arizona rancher killed at a wildlife refuge during an armed standoff with authorities in 2016.

W. Joseph Astarita was indicted on five felony charges after the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department a year ago began investigating possible FBI misconduct and whether there was a cover-up. While Astarita's shots missed, two state police officers shot and killed Finicum just moments later, possibly triggered by Astarita opening fire first.

Supporters of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum said Wednesday they'll continue to press for more information about the shooting death of the Arizona rancher following the indictment of an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

The shooting happened in the final weeks of a standoff that lasted more than a month.

Finicum traveled to Oregon with the Bundy family in January 2016, and was one of the leaders of the group that took over the wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon, to protest federal control of public lands.

At a press conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams would not say whether the other agents are still being investigated.

An obstruction of justice conviction for Astarita could carry up to 20 years in prison, and a conviction for making false statements can mean a sentence of up to five years.

News about a federal inquiry into the shooting past year, as well as allegations that an FBI agent had lied about his role, fueled speculation among supporters of the refuge occupiers that Finicum had been unjustly shot during the operation, or that federal authorities had planned to kill leaders of the occupation all along.

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Finicum then sped off, coming to a roadblock and plowing into a snowbank.

Finicum got out of the pickup truck and encouraged law enforcement to shoot him.

The indictment comes after the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police detectives found evidence that one agent allegedly lied about shooting twice at Finicum's truck after it stopped and he was getting out of the vehicle. One hit Finicum's truck, the other lodged in a snow bank.

Astarita was arraigned Wednesday in Portland, Williams said. The FBI said Finicum was shot after he tried to elude police and reached for a gun.

The FBI released footage of the shooting in the wake of Finicum's death to address rumors he was shot while cooperating with police.

The Bundys still face assault, conspiracy and other charges from a separate armed standoff in 2014 at the Nevada ranch of their father, Cliven Bundy, triggered when federal agents seized his cattle for failure to pay grazing fees to the government.

A second trial over the OR standoff netted a mixed verdict, with some defendants found guilty of the conspiracy charges on which the first round of defendants had been cleared. They said the agent didn't disclose the shooting.

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