MISSOULA – Authorities have arrested two suspects in the robbery of a casino near Missoula International Airport and the carjacking of a family.
Deputies took Thomas Dempsey, 36, and Nick West, 38, into custody, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett said in a statement on Saturday.
Both men have been booked into the Missoula County Detention Facility for investigation of multiple charges. There was no information on whether the two men had attorneys.
The two men were arrested without incident. The sheriff’s office said the arrests were made after authorities received a tip and got help from the FBI.
“We know it was an unsettling time for the community, and as law enforcement officers we consider this one version of a happy ending. Most importantly, no one was hurt and secondly, these two suspects are now behind bars,” Sheriff T.J. McDermott said. “I could not be more proud of our officers and our law enforcement friends, who all came to the aid of this family during a very scary time.”
The men are suspected of robbing Deano’s Casino about 3:30 a.m. on Friday, and fleeing in a car stolen from a casino customer.
A family from Lake Stevens, Washington, had stopped for gas, saw the robbers flee and called 911. A dispatcher asked them to pull over and wait so officers could interview them, McDermott said. They believed it was safe because they had seen the suspects drive away. However, before officers arrived, the suspects came up from behind them, opened the car door and jumped in, forcing a woman to drive while they fled into Missoula.
Officers spoke with the suspects through the family’s cellphone and were able to negotiate the release of a 12-year-old boy at a fast-food restaurant and then a 14-year-old girl and her grandmother at a Missoula intersection, McDermott said.
One of the suspects took over driving, and the speed of the chase increased.
At one point, the driver turned around and fired several shots from the vehicle at deputies, McDermott said. Officers lost track of the vehicle for a time.
The family’s vehicle and the children’s parents were located about 5:30 a.m. near Evaro Hill, northwest of Missoula.
The suspects ran off, but McDermott said they had been on the phone arranging for someone to pick them up. Officers did a door-to-door search in the Evaro area while a police dog tracked the suspects from the family’s car to a spot along the road, where the trail ended, McDermott said.
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