Federal prosecutors have hired a specialist to do a 3D
depiction of two shots allegedly fired by an indicted FBI
agent at the truck of Oregon standoff spokesman Robert "LaVoy"
Finicum two years ago.
Toby Terpstra, senior forensic animator at the
Colorado-based company Kineticorp, is among nine government
experts disclosed by prosecutors in their pending case
against FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita.
Astarita was indicted in June and has pleaded not guilty to
three counts of making a false statement and two counts of
obstruction of justice. He is accused of hiding from Oregon
investigators that he fired his rifle and lying to the FBI
about his shots.
The Jan. 26, 2016, shooting came as state police and FBI
agents stopped key figures of the armed occupation of the
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after they left the bird
sanctuary to travel to a community meeting in John Day.
Astarita's bullets didn't hit Finicum, 54, Oregon
investigators said. They concluded that Astarita fired twice
at the truck, hitting the roof and missing on the second
shot. Seconds later, state troopers shot Finicum three times
after he stepped away from his pickup and reached for his
inner jacket pocket, where police later said he had a loaded
9mm handgun. Bullets struck him in the back and one pierced
his heart, an autopsy found.
likely will turn on expert testimony about the validity of
the Oregon investigation, conducted by Deschutes County
Sheriff's Office, defense
lawyers have said in court. A trial is set for July 24.
U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones said Wednesday during a
status conference in the case that he had urged both sides
to work to save expenses by having their experts evaluate
the evidence together and then submit separate analyses. The
practice is called "hot-tubbing'' of experts, and has been
more common in Australian courts but sometimes is used in
federal civil cases in Oregon.
Jones called it a "simple concept." Defense lawyer David
Angeli agreed that the concept sounds straightforward, but
told the court that it's more difficult in practice.
The government's experts have relied on the syncing of audio
as well as two videos, one from the cellphone of backseat
passenger Shawna Cox taken inside Finicum's truck and one
from an FBI surveillance plane overhead. They've worked to
recreate the scene in 3D through what's called photogrammetry, using
coordinate measurements from photographs and videos.
The defense experts plan to examine what the government's
experts have done "to see if this purported science is even
science at all,'' Angeli told the judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul
Maloney said all but one of the reports
from the government's experts have been provided to the
defense. The prosecutors are awaiting a report by Frank
Piazza, an audio/video expert that will be shared with the
defense once it's received, Maloney said.
Piazza worked to identify points in time on the synced video
where shots were fired and where people were standing when
each shot was fired, Maloney said.
LaVoy Finicum shooting: FBI agent faces
W. Joseph Astarita, who was a
member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, is accused of failing
to alert the FBI's Shooting Incident Response team to
investigate his officer-involved shooting, lying to two
supervisor FBI agents and concealing to investigators that
he had fired his weapon on Jan. 26, 2016, the indictment
government will make their experts available to the defense
if desired, Maloney said.
In March 2016, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and FBI
announced that an FBI agent was suspected of firing twice at
Finicum and may have gotten help from four other FBI agents
in covering up afterward. No other agent has been charged in
The government's experts are from both within and outside of
Oregon. In addition to Terpstra, they are:
-- Victoria Dickerson, an Oregon State Police lab senior
forensic expert on evidence collection, scene analysis, and
firearms ballistics and trajectories.
-- Deschutes County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Turpen, an
accident reconstruction expert.
-- Daniel Alessio, an Oregon State Police lab forensic
science expert on firearms and tool mark examination.
-- Deschutes County Sheriff's Detective Zach Neeman, an
expert on digital evidence collection, data extraction and
-- Piazza, the audio/video expert who is president of Audio
Paint Ltd. and Legal Audio Video.
-- Jeff M. Smith and Catalin Grigoras, forensic media
analysis and photogrammetry experts from Forensic Media
-- Michael Haag, a forensic science consultant on firearms,
ballistics, shooting reconstructions, and 3D laser scanning.
-- Maxine Bernstein