Kalispell Man Shot By Police Pleads Not Guilty to Assault Charge

Ryan Pengelly was shot by two Kalispell police officers after allegedly pointing a gun at them

By Justin Franz
Ryan Pengelly appears in Flathead County District Court on March 16, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell man who was shot by police inside his home earlier this year has pleaded not guilty to felony assault on a peace officer.

Ryan Pengelly, 30, appeared in Flathead County District Court for an arraignment on March 16.

According to court documents, two Kalispell police officers were dispatched to a home on Looking Glass Avenue on Jan. 12 after receiving a report of a suicidal woman. After talking to the woman at the door, the officers tried to get her to go to the hospital with them. When she retreated inside the home, one of the officers grabbed her arm and the woman began calling for her son.

Pengelly, who had been sleeping in another room, came into the front room with a loaded rifle and allegedly pointed it at the two officers. The officers reportedly told Pengelly to drop the weapon and when he did not follow orders they opened fire. The two officers fired six shots, four of which struck Pengelly.

Pengelly survived the shooting and was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. In an interview with law enforcement a few days later, he said the officers did not give him enough time to put the weapon down and that he did not know they were police officers.

The shooting was investigated by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, per Kalispell Police Department policy. During that time, the two officers – Sgt. Chad Zimmerman and Officer Eric Brinton – were put on paid administrative leave. A week later, Sheriff Chuck Curry announced that the two officers had acted appropriately and were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Pengelly served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan in the U.S Army and earned several medals overseas.

A month after the shooting, Flathead County Deputy Attorney Stacy Boman filed a charge of felony assault on a peace officer against Pengelly.

Pengelly was initially due to appear for an arraignment on Feb. 25, but his public defender filed a motion delaying the hearing until March 16. During that time, Bigfork attorney Peter Leander took on the case pro bono.

Pengelly appeared before Judge Heidi Ulbricht on March 16 at 8:30 a.m. With the help of a walker, Pengelly stood up and denied the allegations, saying “I am not guilty of the charges.”

In an interview after the hearing, Leander said he was confident that his client would be found innocent.

“We’re going to do our best to show that Ryan is innocent and that these charges should not be prosecuted,” he said. “We understand that the officers may have feared for their well-being but that does not mean that Ryan is guilty of this offense.”

A group of local veterans also appeared in court to support Pengelly.

Pengelly is expected to go to trial in September. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000.

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