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

Astarita is charged with three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice.

An FBI agent has been indicted on suspicion of lying about firing two shots at Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, one of the leaders of the armed standoff at a wildlife refuge in OR a year ago, according to court documents made public Wednesday.

The indictment alleges, according to a Justice Department press release, that Astarita knowingly and willfully made false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisory special agents, knowing that the statements were false and material to the FBI's decision not to investigate the propriety of an agent-involved shooting.

On Jan. 26, 2016, at least five members of the FBI's elite hostage rescue team (HRT) assisted during the attempted arrest of Arizona rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum and other occupation leaders along a remote stretch of OR highway between Burns and John Day.

The indictment says that Astarita was among the agents who were supposed to apprehend certain leaders of the occupation, including Robert LaVoy Finicum and Ryan Bundy.

The indictment alleges that Astarita knowingly and willfully made false statements to FBI Supervisory Special Agents, knowing that the statements were false and material to the FBI's decision not to investigate the propriety of an agent-involved shooting. A week-long jury trial was set to begin August 29; Astarita is not being held in custody.

Astarita allegedly did not disclose those shots to investigators following Finicum's death, which is the basis for the charges against him. Investigators stated that the troopers' actions to shoot Finicum were justified.

Astarita was a member of the FBI's hostage response team. Oregon State Police had fired shots after he got out of a vehicle at the scene and reached for a weapon he was carrying in his auto.

Oregon US Attorney Billy Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday that the indictment did not change the findings of the deadly shooting, which found that officers were justified in shooting Finicum.

Billy Williams, the US attorney for OR, told reporters on Wednesday the indictment does not call into question the local prosecutor's finding that officers were justified in using deadly force against Finicum. "One shot missed the truck, and the other hit the truck's roof", CNN quoted Deschutes County Sheriff L. Shane Nelson, as saying.

Four other FBI agents are also under investigation for covering up Astarita's gunshots, and the status of that probe is unclear, according to the Oregonian.

"I was disappointed when I recently heard FBI HRT agents associated with this case were not placed on administrative leave after the briefing by our investigators to FBI administration", said Sheriff Nelson.

Video of the shooting, however, appears to show Finicum reaching multiple times to his side before being shot.

The FBI, seeking to dispel questions about Finicum's death in January 2016, quickly released video showing the shooting.

  • Rogelio Becker