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 Oregon last year.
Agent W. Joseph Astarita, a 40-year-old Hostage Rescue Team member, allegedly lied about firing twice on Finicum, who was shot to death in the course of an attempted arrest related to the militia’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016, reported the Oregonian. While Astarita’s shots missed, two state police officers shot and killed Finicum just moments later, possibly triggered by Astarita opening fire first.
The FBI released footage of the shooting in the wake of Finicum’s death to address rumors he was shot while cooperating with police. In an extended video filmed from an airplane, vehicles carrying members of the group are seen being pulled over by police.
Lavoy Finicum was driving one of the vehicles, and drove away from police after they pulled him to a stop. He drove for a bit, but then veers off the road into the snow when he suddenly comes upon a police blockade.
Finicum is seen getting out of the truck and walking through the snow with his hands up in surrender. He then makes a move to reach into his jacket, where the FBI said he was carrying a gun. At that point, one of the authorities walks up out of the woods and shoots Finicum dead from behind.
The state police officers were deemed justified in shooting Finicum, a verdict which remains unchanged by Astarita’s indictment, according to Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.
Astarita is charged with three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice, carrying a combined sentence of up to 25 years if convicted. It’s unclear the other four FBI agents on Astarita’s HRT unit will face sanctions.
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