Why Can Prosecutors Not Get Missing Shell Casings and Metal Fragment from Ryan Bundy’s Shoulder in LaVoy Finicum Shooting?
In June, I reported on FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, who shot twice at LaVoy Finicum in what can only be explained as attempted murder, being indicted by a grand jury. Just a day later, Astarita entered a plea of “not guilty” to five counts of lying and obstruction of justice. Now, prosecutors are trying to get their hands on the shell casings that Astarita and his fellow unindicted agents helped to cover up, along with fragments of a bullet that were lodged in Ryan Bundy’s shoulder.
According to the indictment, Astarita, who served as a member of the elite FBI Hostage Rescue Team, “falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of Robert LaVoy Finicum, when he knew then and there that he had fired his weapon.”
While no one claims to have seen or heard shots fired from Agent Astarita, the fact is that the sounds of the bullets hitting the truck as Finicum exited it are unmistakable. Listen for yourself. The shots come at approximately 5:30.
Those shots come as LaVoy Finicum is heard saying, “Go ahead and shoot me.”
Perhaps his reaction was to the simple fact that he was already being fired upon and that upon exiting the vehicle shots were fired at him.
Oregon Live reports on what is going on with the case of Agent Astarita.
No one reported that they saw or heard agent W. Joseph Astarita fire and no direct evidence exists linking any bullet or shell casing to Astarita’s rifle, one of his lawyers said.
Prosecutors countered that the investigation continues and revealed for the first time that not only are shell casings from Astarita’s alleged shots missing, but so are shell casings from some of the Oregon State Police shots fired at the Jan. 26, 2016, roadblock.
“Eight shots were fired. Six shell casings in roadway are all gone,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Holsinger, chief of the Criminal Division in the Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office. She didn’t elaborate.
State troopers fired six of the eight shots, with the other two eventually linked to Astarita, investigators and prosecutors said.
Though the Oregon State Police were apparently responsible for actually shooting Finicum to death, the FBI claimed to investigate several of their agents concerning failing to report that they fired shots at Finicum and his vehicle. They apparently disposed of the bullet casings as well.
Oregon Live previously reported:
The Oregon investigators concluded that one agent fired at Finicum’s truck, hitting it in the roof and missing on the second shot. A state trooper later described to investigators seeing two rifle casings in the area where the FBI agents were posted. But detectives called to investigate didn’t find the casings, police reports indicated.
Federal law prohibits “knowingly and willfully” making any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation or concealing information.
From an earlier report we did:
Five FBI agents assigned to the traffic stop told investigators that none of them fired at Finicum’s Dodge pickup after it crashed at their roadblock. Oregon investigators, however, concluded that one agent fired twice at the truck, hitting it once in the roof and missing on the second shot.
A state trooper later described to investigators seeing two rifle casings in the area where the agents were posted. Detectives tasked with collecting evidence didn’t find the casings, police reports indicate.
FBI aerial surveillance video shows that before the detectives could get there, the FBI agents searched the area with flashlights and then huddled, according to law enforcement sources who have seen the video.
The group then broke and one agent appeared to bend over twice and pick up something near where the two shots likely were taken, the sources told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Barry Donegan at Truth in Media reports, “Police reports indicate that detectives showed up to collect evidence around 90 minutes after the moment in the surveillance video in which the FBI agent appeared to pick items up from the ground.”
“All of the FBI agents on the scene that day claimed that they did not take any shots,” Donegan added. “A state trooper said he had fired three shots while the truck was speeding towards police and two more at Finicum as he was reaching into his jacket after he had exited the vehicle.”
“Police inventory records show that the trooper was missing five rounds after the incident, apparently confirming his story. A fourth bullet hole in the truck came from a different angle of trajectory suggesting that an FBI agent had fired the shot,” Donegan continued. “Investigators believe a second shot, which missed Finicum and did not strike the truck, was also fired by an FBI agent.”
Oregon Live added:
David Angeli, one of four criminal defense lawyers retained by Astarita, signaled that his client likely will challenge the forensic analysis and “modeling” done by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, which was tasked with investigating the Finicum shooting.
The defense may question whether the sheriff’s investigators were qualified to conduct the work and if their conclusions are valid, Angeli said.
The investigators established that a bullet entered Finicum’s truck through the roof as he was stepping out at the roadblock on U.S. 395 in Harney County and concluded Astarita fired it. Another bullet from Astarita apparently went wild and missed the truck altogether, the investigation showed.
The detectives also found that state troopers fired three shots into Finicum’s truck as it was barreling toward the roadblock and three more shots that struck Finicum, killing him after he had emerged from his truck and reached inside his jacket. He was carrying a loaded 9mm pistol in a pocket, authorities said.
The troopers reported their shots, yet it’s unclear why four casings from their shots weren’t found at the scene.
At the time of the shooting, even the FBI didn’t give the whole truth at a press conference, according to the Bundy’s attorney.
Finicum’s widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit even though Oregon has ruled the shooting of her husband justified.
The incredible display of injustice in this matter is seen most clearly that all of the defendants in the Oregon protest never once fired a weapon and yet were held without bail just as many of them are held without bail in Nevada for the Bundy Ranch trial. Yet. Astarita was released without bail and continues to work for the FBI in an administrative role.
I’m confident that state is going to cover for Astarita, unlike they would for the people they are supposed to serve. They’ve already demonstrated it in how they’ve treated this man.