Great Falls Man Gets 50 Years for Shooting at Officers

Man was reportedly high on meth and bath salts at the time

By Molly Priddy

GREAT FALLS — A 22-year-old man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for firing shots at Great Falls police officers during a chase and standoff near an elementary school in May.

District Judge Kenneth Neill sentenced Ernest Frank Miller on Tuesday for assault with a weapon and two counts of criminal endangerment, the Great Falls Tribune reported. Neill declared Miller a persistent felony offender and didn’t suspend any of his prison time.

Officers were investigating a suspected burglary on May 9 when they spotted Miller running away. Prosecutors say he fired shots at a pursuing officer, ran into a house and fired several more shots during a two-hour standoff. No officers were injured.

Miller said he was high on methamphetamine and bath salts and hadn’t slept in eight days at the time of his arrest. He testified Tuesday that he had been shot in the abdomen by an unidentified third party during a gun sale and believed it was that person, not an officer, who was chasing him.

“I was in fear of my life and scared,” Miller testified. “I thought he was still trying to get me.” He said he fired two shots into the air to try and scare away the person he believed was pursuing him.

Miller did not identify his alleged shooter.

At the time of the standoff, Miller was on conditional release for felony convictions in both Montana and Washington state for burglary and theft.

Public defender Thomas Bartleson recommended a 40-year sentence with 20 suspended