Officers Cleared in Kalispell Shooting

Flathead County Sheriff's Office completes investigation into Jan. 12 shooting

By Justin Franz
The scene at Looking Glass Avenue in Kalispell on Jan. 12, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Two Kalispell police officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing following a shooting last week that sent one man to the hospital.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation into the Jan. 12 incident on Looking Glass Avenue and concluded that both officers — Sgt. Chad Zimmerman and Officer Eric Brinton — responded appropriately.

“After reviewing all available evidence and statements I feel that Sgt. Zimmerman and Officer Brinton acted within Kalispell Police Department policy and Montana State Law,” said Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detective Commander Brandy Hinzman, who led the investigation. “It is the conclusion of the investigative team that the shooting was justified.”

According to the Kalispell Police Department, Zimmerman and Brinton responded to a call of a suicidal woman on Looking Glass Avenue at approximately 1:19 p.m., Jan. 12. The woman, later identified as Bonnie Pengelly, allegedly threatened to hurt herself and others and said her son had “multiple weapons” in the house that she could access.

Upon arrival, the officers made contact with Pengelly at the front door. When they tried to take her into custody, she resisted and ran back into the house screaming and trying to fight with the officers, according to the department.

Hearing the commotion, a housemate, James Malley, emerged from a back room where he was sleeping. Malley complied with officers’ instructions.

Ryan Pengelly, who had been sleeping in another bedroom, heard the disturbance, grabbed his loaded rifle and went into the front of the house. When Ryan Pengelly emerged from the back room, he pointed the weapon at the two officers. When the officers told him to drop the weapon and he did not, they opened fire. Six total shots were fired by the two officers, four of which struck Ryan Pengelly. Officers immediately called for medical personnel and began first aid.

In an interview following the shooting, Ryan Pengelly told investigators that the officers had told him to put the weapon down but that they did not give him enough time.

“That’s probably what I did wrong, I pointed the rifle at him, it was wrong,” Pengelly told investigators. “If I would have known it was a police officer I would have put it down immediately.”

Following the shooting, Ryan Pengelly was taken to the hospital for surgery. Bonnie Pengelly was also taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Malley told investigators that just prior to the officers shooting, he heard a loud voice holler. According to the Kalispell Police Department, “he later told investigators that he recollects hearing shots fired, officers hollering at Ryan Pengelly to drop it, put it away, get away from it.” Malley clarified with investigators that he was unsure of exactly what the officers hollered prior to the shooting.

Bonnie Pengelly told investigators that one of the officers hollered “gun” prior to the shooting.

During their interviews, both Zimmerman and Brinton stated that Zimmerman hollered “drop the gun” prior to shots being fired. Zimmerman reported that the rifle was being pointed directly at him at the time he fired.

The officers were not wearing body cameras and their body microphones and dashboard cameras were not triggered because they hadn’t turned on the lights or sirens in their car when approaching.

Sheriff Chuck Curry said the independent investigation was completed earlier this week and handed off to the Flathead County Attorney’s Office. County Attorney Ed Corrigan said Thursday that the case was under review and that it is unclear if anyone would be charged.

As a member of the U.S. Army, Ryan Pengelly served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, earning several medals. In 2012, Pengelly and his wife were surprised with the new house on Looking Glass Avenue as a part of Operation Finally Home, a nonprofit group that builds houses for wounded veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.