For Finicum Supporters, FBI Indictment Only A Partial Win

An FBI agent has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly lying about firing a weapon at LaVoy Finicum, the spokesman for last year's 41-day-long occupation of a remote wildlife refuge in OR by armed anti-government activists.

The indictment followed an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department inspector general which has been going on for more than a year.

An investigation into the shooting that happened last March found the fatal shots fired by Oregon State Police troopers were justified.

Agent Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), is accused of firing the shot.

According to reports, the agent faces a charge of making false allegations with the intent to obstruct justice. He also twice lied about the firing to Oregon State Police investigators, which in turn stopped them from alerting federal authorities about his obstruction of justice, the indictment alleged.


Astarita did not speak in court Wednesday, and is now on pre-trial release.

Finicum's death spurred protests and conspiracy theories among occupation supporters. US authorities concluded that agents were justified in firing at Finicum.

Formed in 1983 as a response to the murder of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the FBI's hostage rescue team is among the elite paramilitary units in the world.

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. "Special Agent Astarita falsely stated he did not fire his weapon during the attempted arrest of Mr. Finicum, when in fact, he did". Investigators later revealed that one of the state troopers shot at Finicum's truck as it raced toward the roadblock.

"I don't know that they've ever been put on administrative leave", Nelson said in an interview Thursday.


Finicum was driving his pickup truck, carrying other Bundy occupiers, when he sped away from a traffic stop on the rural USA 395 highway.

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.

The FBI and investigating law enforcement agencies have declined to identify the other four agents who were on the scene. Finicum was a vocal member of the group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. The FBI released graphic footage showing the standoff, which authorities said shows Finicum reaching for his waist before being shot.

"The indictment of one Federal Bureau of Investigation agent will not necessarily answer all the unanswered questions people have", he said.



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