The FBI looks terrible in the death of Robert LaVoy Finicum who was shot and killed by police during a refuge occupation in Oregon in 2016. Several issues of concern have surfaced: the FBI agent lied about shooting Mr. Finicum and firing at the truck, the FBI asked the State police to not wear their body cameras that day, and the FBI requested State police not record the interviews of the agents.
Witness testimony, audio, and video evidence plus bullet trajectory analysis all confirmed that FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita lied about firing two shots at the truck driven by LaVoy Finicum after he drove into a snowbank. One shot pierced the roof of the truck hitting passenger Ryan Bundy and terrorizing the other passengers.
Mr. Finicum left the van – with his hands up – to draw the gunfire away from the van. Within seconds, the police say Mr. Finicum reached inside his jacket for a gun and was killed.
The government revealed the Oregon State Police SWAT troopers at the scene are ordinarily required to wear body cameras. They didn’t that day at the request of the FBI. The FBI did obtain video from FBI surveillance planes flying above the scene.
State police detectives normally record interviews of officers but didn’t that night when interviewing the FBI team. That was again at the FBI’s request. The FBI also asked them to interview the team as a group and not individually.
A follow-up interview with the hostage team members also came with unusual conditions, prosecutors note.
The shooting came as the FBI and state police moved to arrest the leaders of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as they drove to a meeting outside the refuge on Jan. 26, 2016.
The leaders had left the refuge before without incident and didn’t expect January 26th would be any different.
The cowboy occupiers thought it was simply a demonstration of civil disobedience. At the same time, Occupy Wall Street and other groups were in the news for taking over parks and buildings, damaging property, without incident.
FBI’S UNUSUAL REQUESTS
By the time State police interviewed agents, they knew two shots were unaccounted for. The agents set conditions for the interview: They could only be interviewed as a group, the interview couldn’t be recorded and their lawyer could be present on a speakerphone.
The state police detectives found those conditions “particularly an unrecorded group interview – odd and problematic, but reluctantly agreed to them, believing that the alternative would be no interview at all,” prosecutors wrote.