By Steve Neavling
Update: 10:15 a.m. Thursday — FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) based in Quantico, Va., was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland on three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Astarita was one of a number of FBI agents assigned to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was present during the shooting of Robert LaVoy Finicum on Jan. 26, 2016, in Harney County, Oregon.
Finicum was stopped by a roadblock, where he allegedly challenged officers to shoot him. He was shot and killed by state troopers while moving his hands toward his pocket, where he had a loaded weapon.
The indictment alleges, according to a Justice Department press release, 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.
Specifically, Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of Mr. Finicum when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon. 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. Neither round hit Finicum.
Posted on Wednesday.
An FBI agent accused of lying about shooting at a rancher during the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has been indicted.
Sources familiar with the case told the Oregonian  that prosecutors allege the agent made a false statement with intent to obstruct justice.
The agent, who has not yet been identified, was the subject of a yearlong investigation by the Justice Department inspector general. He will be identified in federal court on Wednesday.
As local, county and federal authorities moved in on the occupiers, the Deschutes County sheriff said an FBI agent shot twice at the spokesman of the occupiers, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona ranger.
The bullets missed, but in the chaos that ensued, state police troopers fatally shot Finicum as he reached in his pocket, where he had a loaded handgun.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the FBI agent is on leave or has been fired.