Federal Bureau of Investigation agent indicted in LaVoy Finicum shooting

W. Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, was indicted by a federal grand jury June 20 on three charges of making a false statement and two charges of obstruction of justice.

An FBI agent who allegedly lied to investigators about a fatal shooting during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation has been identified.

He faces five felony charges as the result of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into possible agency misconduct.

Finicum was fatally shot by Oregon State Police in January 2016 during a traffic stop after he got out of the vehicle, put his hands up and reached toward a gun that he had in a jacket pocket. Astarita is accused of actually firing two rounds and then knowingly lying to Oregon State Police about his conduct on two separate occasions, according to the indictment. A week-long jury trial was set to begin August 29; Astarita is not being held in custody.

Alison Clark, a defense lawyer representing Astarita, entered not guilty pleas on his behalf at a court hearing Wednesday, but said he will retain his own local attorney during the trial, according to the Oregonian newspaper.

Finicum's death inflamed anti-government sentiment.

The legal system long ago decided that the actual killing of Finicum was justified.

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.

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The leaders of the occupation, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were taken into custody at the roadside where Finicum was shot dead. "Special Agent Astarita falsely stated he did not fire his weapon during the attempted arrest of Mr. Finicum, when in fact, he did". Following the shooting that killed Finicum, investigators found a round that hit the canopy of Finicum's pickup.

On Jan. 2, 2016, Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, who was known for the 2014 Bundy standoff in Bunkerville, Nev., and six co-defendants seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and occupied it for 41 days.

OSP troopers and FBI HRT agents fired a total of eight shots.

But after initially stopping when pulled over by law enforcement, Finicum sped away, then crashed his truck into a snowbank and almost hit a law enforcement officer as he apparently tried to avoid a police roadblock.

Bretzing, who has since retired, said the indictment also reinforces anti-government militia conspiracy theories about federal agents.

The FBI previous year released a 26-minute video of the incident, which showed that Finicum crashed his pickup truck into the snow after speeding away from a surprise traffic block. "I was disappointed when I recently heard that FBI HRT agents associated with this case were not placed on administrative leave after the briefing by our investigators to the FBI administration".

"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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