June 29 (UPI) -- An FBI agent pleaded not guilty to charges he lied about his role in a fatal shooting related to the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge armed occupation in Oregon.
FBI Special Agent W. Joseph Astarita, who was a member of the agency's hostage rescue team, pleaded not guilty in a Portland federal court to two counts of obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements to investigators, the indictment unsealed Wednesday shows.
The charges are related to the Jan. 26, 2016, shooting death of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, one of the armed protesters who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon for weeks.
Finicum, 56, was shot and killed after engaging in a standoff with Oregon police as they arrested protest leader Ammon Bundy and four others. The FBI released graphic footage showing the standoff, which authorities said shows Finicum reaching for his waist before being shot.
Astarita fired two shots but missed Finicum, and later lied about firing his weapon to authorities, the indictment alleges.
Astarita "did knowingly engage in misleading conduct ... by failing to disclose that he had fired two rounds during the attempted arrest of Robert LaVoy Finicum," the indictment reads.
"In failing to make that disclosure, defendant acted with the intent to hinder, delay and prevent the communication of information from the Oregon State Police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation relating to the possible commission of a federal offense," the indictment continues.
The armed occupiers seized the wildlife refuge on Jan. 2, 2016, to protest the federal government's land-use policies. Finicum's death led to further protests.