FBI Agent Indicted For Cover-Up In Shooting Of Oregon Militiaman

The charges are related to the January 26, 2016, shooting death of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, one of the armed protesters who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern OR for weeks.

Finicum was shot more than three weeks into a standoff at the Malheur refuge, a remote bird sanctuary almost six hours from the state's largest city.

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. Astarita also knowingly engaged in misleading conduct toward Oregon State Police officers by failing to disclose that he had fired two rounds during the attempted arrest. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges Wednesday in Portland and was released pending future appearances, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Finicum was then shot three times by state police troopers after he stepped out of the vehicle and reached for his coat pocket, where he had a loaded handgun. After a police chase, state police shot and killed Finicum.

"The actions of the FBI HRT team in this case damage the integrity of the entire law enforcement profession, which makes me both disappointed and angry", said Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, whose department investigated Finicum's shooting. Dozens of people had taken over the wildlife refuge to protest federal control of land.

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An FBI agent was indicted Wednesday on allegations of lying to cover up his role in the shooting of militia leader Robert "LaVoy" Finicum in OR a year ago.

The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General in partnership with the United States Attorney's Office for the District of OR investigated the case.

It was not immediately clear if Astarita had retained an attorney.

Astarita, a member of the FBI's hostage rescue team base in Quantico, Virginia, was charged with three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice.

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Finicum, 54, was driving one vehicle.

Astarita was released on his own recognizance, but is scheduled to go on trial on August 2.

Finicum and other occupation leaders, including chief organizers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were planning to travel from Burns to Grant County along a remote stretch of Highway 395. Finicum, who was in a separate truck ahead of Bundy, initially stopped too. Some FBI officials had also mentioned those same incidents, saying that with memories of those bloody episodes in mind, they deliberately allowed the OR occupation to continue for weeks.

"I am grateful that they did indict him however there were other officers involved in the coverup", said Janette.

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The indictment - filed last week and made public Wednesday - does not accuse Special Agent W. Joseph Astarita of shooting the occupier, but it is a public black eye for the FBI group, which the bureau has described as unparalleled in its law enforcement capabilities.


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