FBI Agent Indicted in Oregon Wildlife Refuge Shooting

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An indictment accusing FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita of lying to hide that he fired two shots at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and missed casts a shadow on the bureau’s Hostage Rescue Team, The Oregonian reports. The team “is among the most elite units in the bureau and the idea that someone could be engaged in a firearm discharge in such a high-profile case and then allegedly withhold information is an extraordinary and serious charge,” said Brian Levin, a former New York police officer who directs California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. “It’s extraordinarily disappointing.”

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said that FBI leaders were told of the findings in the case more than a year ago, but didn’t put the agent or his four colleagues on leave. The Hostage Rescue Team was assigned to help arrest the leaders of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Jeannette Finicum, the widow of the Arizona rancher who served as the occupation’s primary spokesman, said Astarita’s early shots may have contributed to the firing of the fatal gunshots moments later by two state police troopers who killed her husband on Jan. 26, 2016. She intends to file a civil lawsuit claiming excessive force in her husband’s death. Astarita’s trial date was set for Aug. 29.

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