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US F.B.I. Agent Awaits Verdict on Mystery Shots Fired at Oregon Standoff

06:10  10 august  2018
06:10  10 august  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

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The question faced by jurors is not who killed Mr. Finicum — an Oregon state trooper fired those shots and was found justified in his actions — but rather who fired two mysterious shots that no one will admit to. F . B . I . Agent Charged With Lying About Oregon Standoff Shooting .

One Oregon state trooper fired three shots at Finicum's speeding vehicle but didn't hit anyone. But investigators were concerned that they could not account for the shots apparently fired by an FBI agent that left the bullet hole in the roof of Finicum's truck.

a man wearing a hat: Mr. Finicum at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images Mr. Finicum at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A bullet struck the cab of a truck, and a law enforcement officer lied about firing the shot.

Those were the two key facts that federal jurors were given on Thursday as they began to deliberate the fate of an F.B.I. agent who is accused of lying about firing his weapon at a roadblock and then covering up the evidence.

The shot that hit the pickup, and another one that went wild, were fired on a cold late afternoon in central Oregon during a searing moment in the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed militia members. A militia leader, LaVoy Finicum, was killed when he appeared to reach for a weapon. Conspiracy theories in right wing and militia circles have continued to swirl ever since.

FBI agent found not guilty of lying about gunshots

  FBI agent found not guilty of lying about gunshots A jury found an FBI agent not guilty Friday of obstructing an investigation into who fired two errant shots at a key figure in a group that seized an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016.W. Joseph Astarita, 41, displayed a slight smile when the jury returned its verdict after less than a day of deliberations. He left the courthouse without comment.Astarita was charged with making false statements and obstruction of justice after telling investigators he did not fire the shots that missed Robert "LaVoy" Finicum.

Agent is accused of falsely claiming that he didn’t fire his weapon during the attempted arrest of LaVoy Finicum Bundy brothers found not guilty of conspiracy in Oregon militia standoff . Read more. The charges were announced months after the surprise verdict in the Oregon militia federal trial, which

But two more shots were fired that day, investigators said at the March 2016 news conference, and the FBI agent who fired them lied about it. The Bundy brothers are awaiting trial for a 2014 standoff with Bureau of Land Management A second trial over the Oregon standoff netted a mixed verdict

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The question faced by jurors is not who killed Mr. Finicum — an Oregon state trooper fired those shots and was found justified in his actions — but rather who fired two mysterious shots that no one will admit to. The stakes go far beyond the defendant, Joseph Astarita, 41, to the highest reaches of federal law enforcement, and to the reputation and credibility of the F.B.I., its agents and its training systems.

“It is with a heavy heart that the United States government asks you to look at one of its own,” Paul T. Maloney, an assistant United States attorney, said Thursday in his final statement to the jury. “This case is about integrity; this case is about honesty; this case is about accountability and owning your shots.”

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The authorities said the only person who could have fired those shots — based on an analysis of surveillance videos and photographs — was an A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: F . B . I . Agent Indicted in Oregon Standoff Shooting .

Search. Burns Oregon Standoff . The county sheriff's office was tasked with investigating the Finicum shooting . The Oregon investigators concluded that one agent fired at Finicum's truck, hitting it in the roof and missing on the second shot .

Mr. Astarita’s lawyers agreed that honesty and accountability should be key measures in reaching a verdict. But they said the evidence suggested a pattern of lies not within the F.B.I. but the Oregon State Police, and what they said were the “reckless” actions of one trooper who did most of the shooting that afternoon, then changed his story about what happened.

Mr. Astarita, who has been in the F.B.I. for 13 years and is a firearms instructor, showed restraint and training in not firing his weapon, his lawyers said, and represented the best of what the agency stands for.

“He didn’t shoot and he had no motive to lie,” a defense lawyer, David H. Angeli, said in his closing statement. “There’s only one law enforcement officer that came in and told you things that weren’t true and it wasn’t agent Astarita.”

An Oregon jury is being asked to decide whether an F.B.I. agent lied about firing two shots at a roadblock in 2016 where a leader of a militia, LaVoy Finicum, was killed. © FBI, via Associated Press An Oregon jury is being asked to decide whether an F.B.I. agent lied about firing two shots at a roadblock in 2016 where a leader of a militia, LaVoy Finicum, was killed.

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The Washington Post reports that an agent with the FBI 's elite Hostage Rescue Team may have opened fire on Finicum after he crashed his truck into a snowbank, hitting his truck. oregon , standoff , mystery , finicum, lavoy finicum.

SEATTLE — F . B . I . agents moved in on Wednesday night to encircle the last four holdouts at a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon that has been occupied since early January by armed Negotiations continued into the night, the F . B . I . said in a statement, and no shots had been fired .

Then there is the harder-to-measure force of Mr. Astarita himself, who is accused of three felony counts of lying to investigators and obstructing justice. Testifying in his own defense, Mr. Astarita looked squarely at the jury through two days on the witness stand. He crisply and resolutely denied the criminal charges against him, saying he never fired his Colt assault rifle, never covered up firing his rifle, and that being an F.B.I. agent and representing the agency’s integrity to the best of abilities was the focus of his life.

“It’s my world,” he said, in his final words to the jury before stepping down. He said that his training — that an agent should never shoot without a clear target and a certainty of what lies beyond the target — kept him from firing because he saw that a state trooper was potentially in the crossfire. Despite being involved in numerous SWAT team arrests and other actions, he said he had never shot at anyone, ever.

In reaching a verdict, the jury will have to fill in the holes of what happened, or did not, on Jan. 26, 2106, in the intense and frantic minutes as Mr. Finicum, a spokesman for the militia occupiers, roared his Dodge Ram pickup toward a police roadblock. Mr. Finicum swerved into a snowbank as he approached the blocked highway, nearly striking an F.B.I. agent. He then got out of the truck, hands in the air, but was shot and killed after the state trooper said he saw Mr. Finicum reach for a weapon.

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^ "Sheriff: FBI agents didn't tell investigators about 2 shots fired at Finicum's truck". ^ Partial verdict reached in Bundy ranch standoff trial in Nevada, Oregon Live (AP), April 24, 2017. ^ A bullet hole, a mystery and an FBI agent 's indictment — the messy aftermath of the Oregon refuge standoff , Los

Burns Oregon Standoff . Mystery shots fired at LaVoy Finicum: 7 key questions and answers (video). They offered no reason in announcing their findings Tuesday about why the FBI agent wouldn't admit to firing the shots . At the same time, they said two state police troopers who shot and

Prosecutors, by contrast, said Mr. Astarita was new to the elite Hostage Rescue Team that had been assigned to the Malheur takeover. They said the evidence supported the notion that Mr. Astarita fired the two shots, then panicked — either because of his ego or his embarrassment — and denied using his weapon. He then had to lie further to cover his first lie, they said.

Defense lawyers, however, said that the evidence pointed to an Oregon trooper, Trooper No. 1, whose name has been withheld by the court because of threats he faced after the shooting. Mr. Angeli told the jury that Trooper No. 1 fired the two mysterious shots, and lied about it because of the pressure and the investigation.

What also hung over the proceedings is the reality that prosecutors have had very little success convicting anyone who played a role in the Malheur takeover, or more broadly in the militia groups that led it. The Bundy brothers, Ammon and Ryan, and five of their followers were acquitted in late 2016, in the same federal courthouse in downtown Portland where Mr. Astarita was on trial. In late 2017, another federal case against the Bundy group, stemming from an armed standoff with law enforcement agents in Nevada over cattle grazing, collapsed in a mistrial after the judge said prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence, as required, that could help the defense.

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FBI Agents Under Investigation Over Shots Fired During Oregon Standoff . Oregon State Police and FBI agents stopped two vehicles carrying occupation leaders, and officers opened fire during a confrontation with Finicum.

The Oregon investigators determined that one agent fired at Finicum's pickup, hitting it in the roof and missing on the second shot . Federal law forbids "knowingly and willfully" making any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation or concealing information.

The task faced by the jurors as they began to deliberate on Thursday centered on what was deeply uncertain. The forensic evidence at the core of the prosecution’s case said the trajectory of the bullet that struck Mr. Finicum’s truck after it spun into the snow bank came from his approximate location. But Mr. Astarita told the jurors things were in chaotic motion, and he could not be exactly sure where he was standing.

Law enforcement video of the scene showed various figures on the ground, bending over at times and picking things up. But who were they? Witnesses in the trial talked about how officers had to contend with a growing darkness in a remote area. In contrast, infrared cameras from overhead looked black and white, sharp and clear.

Even the question of physical posture became a thread of the circumstantial case. At one point on Wednesday, for example, prosecutors handed Mr. Astarita his rifle, retrieved from an evidence box, and asked to show the jurors how he was taught to stand with it when scanning for targets or ready to fire.

“Can I ask why the safety is off?” Mr. Astarita asked as he prepared to shoulder the weapon.

In later questioning, and again in summing up the evidence to the jurors on Thursday, prosecutors said what was revealed in that moment with the gun in the courtroom was not gun safety, but how Mr. Astarita stood and where his feet were placed, as he stood ready to fire. On one of the videotaped images, he stood facing Mr. Finicum’s truck in exactly that posture.

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