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Justice Department watchdog concludes yearslong probe into FBI actions after 2016 standoff with protesters in Oregon

LaVoy Finicum shooting FBI 2016
FBI via CNN Newsource
This photo taken from an FBI video shows Robert "LaVoy" Finicum before he was fatally shot near Burns, Oregon in 2016.
LaVoy Finicum 2016
Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
LaVoy Finicum speaks to reporters at the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters near Burns, Oregon, in 2016.

By Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

(CNN) — The Justice Department’s inspector general found flaws with the FBI’s procedures for handling evidence after an officer-involved shooting in 2016, concluding a years-long investigation that began after the actions of FBI agents were questioned following a fatal standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge.

The inspector general’s office released its report Tuesday, concluding that shooting incident policies should be updated to address crime scene management and situations when the Justice Department is working with a state or local law enforcement partner.

The report stems from the fatal shooting of LaVoy Finicum, killed by Oregon State Police during a standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where protesters were objecting to federal land policies. Though Finicum was killed by state police, who were cleared of wrongdoing, investigators later found that two FBI agents also shot at Finicum during the incident.

The agents were interviewed several times in the days after the shooting and never disclosed that they fired shots. One of them was later tried for lying to investigators and acquitted by a federal jury.

Since the fatal shot was from an Oregon State Police officer, state and local law enforcement personnel — not the FBI — assumed control of the scene from the outset and conducted the shooting investigation, according to the inspector general.

But aerial surveillance video taken by an FBI plane shortly after the shooting showed FBI personnel “moving around the scene in the dark, using flashlights to look under and around vehicles, examining the area near the roadblock, and appearing to pick up objects from the roadway,” according to the IG report.

FBI personnel are authorized to remove things from the crime scene once it is secure and if there has not been a critical incident, such as an FBI agent-involved shooting, the report said.

In recommending policy updates, the inspector general noted the FBI’s crime scene management procedures only explicitly applied to shootings being investigated by the bureau, and not when state or local law enforcement lead an investigation where no FBI agent is believed at the time of the shooting to have fired their weapon.

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