UPDATE (Aug. 10, 7:15 p.m. PT) — After less 보다 a work of deliberation, a jury of nine men and three women discovered FBI distinct agent Joseph Astarita not guilty the lying around a high-profile police shooting during the 2016 Malheur nationwide Wildlife Refuge occupation.

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Astarita faced two counts of do false statements and also one count of obstruction the justice.

The fees stemmed native a an essential moment throughout the occupation when spokesman Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum was shot and killed by Oregon State Police after he fled a traffic stop along a far stretch that highway in eastern Oregon.


Investigators said legislation enforcement fired a total of eight shots in ~ the roadblock. While every were reputed justified, Astarita’s three-week trial revolved about two of them.

Even with Astarita"s acquittal, it"s tho uncertain who actually take it those 2 shots. The verdict leaves several open questions about a pivotal moment in the 2016 occupation.

"I"m disappointed the we"re no going to come to a resolution regarding where those shots came from," said former FBI special Agent in charge Greg Bretzing, who oversaw the agency"s response to the occupation and approved the Jan. 26, 2016 operation to arrest the leaders. "I believe that the jury made an educated decision based upon all the evidence that was presented to it."

Eight Shots at The Roadblock

Astarita is a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, a counterterrorism unit the conducts operations roughly the world. Top top Jan. 26, 2016, he to be stationed with other HRT operators and also OSP SWAT troopers in ~ a roadblock that Finicum increased towards in his pickup together he attempted come evade arrest. He to be traveling at much more than 70 miles every hour.

As Finicum raced towards the roadblock, an OSP SWAT trooper established in court as “Officer 1” fired, hitting the truck.

With the roadblock simply feet away, Finicum swerved his truck turn off the road and also into the deep snow, burying an additional FBI HRT operator, unique agent john Neiter, in snow.

“I experienced John disappear,” Astarita testified in ~ trial. “At the point, I assumed John to be dead.”

Moments later on Neiter emerged, unharmed. Astarita stated he to be relieved come see Neiter was alive.

At nearly the very same time, prosecutors claimed Astarita fired his weapon double at Finicum as he exited his truck.

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The photo is from commonwealth court records. The person in blue is FBI one-of-a-kind Agent Joseph Astarita.

Federal court records.

“Go ahead and also shoot me,” Finicum said, his eight raised. “Go ahead and shoot me.”


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OSP troopers ultimately shot and killed Finicum after he showed up to reach for his coat pocket. Within the jacket to be a loaded handgun.

Prosecutors stated that ~ the shooting, Astarita lied to his supervisors once asked even if it is he shot.

During the trial, Astarita testified the he never ever fired his weapon. In fact, despite eight rounds fired in ~ the roadblock, Astarita claimed he never ever heard any gunfire. He stated he to be wearing ear protection.

Two version Of The Story

Six that the shots fired that night were claimed by OSP troopers — 3 at Finicum’s truck as it approached a roadblock and also three an ext that later on struck and killed the Arizona rancher.

But that fired the 2 shots in ~ Finicum as he exited the truck stayed a mystery to investigators.

“You have the right to be specific the defendant is the resource of those shots, as hard as it might be in spite of his admirable service,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney said during the government’s closing disagreements Thursday. “The defendant is guilty.”

Maloney stressed the the situation was about law enforcement accountability.

While the government said Astarita fired twice and also hit Finicum’s truck, Astarita’s attorneys suggested “Officer 1” was the an ext likely the source of the shots in question.

“There’s only one law enforcement officer that came in here and told you things that were not true,” defense attorney David Angeli said throughout his closing arguments. “And the is not Joe Astarita. It is Officer 1.”

Angeli mentioned that nobody of the much more than 40 witnesses referred to as during the trial experienced Astarita fire.

“Not one,” that said. “That’s due to the fact that agent Astarita did not fire.”

The decision is one more tally in the loss shaft for commonwealth prosecutors related to this case. They failed to judge brothers and Oregon standoff leader Ammon and also Ryan Bundy in 2016. A judge asserted a mistrial in the case versus Ammon, Ryan and also their father, Cliven Bundy, stemming native the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada.

The U.S. attorney"s office exit a statement following the Astarita verdict, defending the decision to carry the instance to trial.

"We strongly think this instance needed to be brought before the court and also decided by a jury," U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams stated in the statement. "Our mechanism of justice counts on the pure integrity of regulation enforcement officials at every levels that government."

Astarita was not easily accessible for interviews complying with the verdict. His defense team stated that to be “because that his job.” Astarita likewise didn’t leave the courtroom through the general public entrance.

The FBI declined any comment top top the verdict. The agency also did no reply to questions concerning Astarita"s future function at the FBI and also the Hostage Rescue Team.

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Bretzing said there would likely be one internal governmental inquiry into activity by Astarita and other FBI agents top top scene, "which might bring an ext closure come the situation."

Angeli and also Rob Cary, another of Astarita’s attorneys, issued a share statement.

“Joe Astarita is a hero who puts his life ~ above the line for his country every day,” lock said. “We space grateful to the men and women that the jury who saw v a situation that never ever should’ve been brought. Joe Astarita is innocent and it to be our privilege and also honor to stand for him.”