HELENA – A Helena man made an initial appearance in Justice Court Monday on a charge that he fatally shot a 20-year-old man when his gun discharged while he was pistol-whipping another man.
Austin Kroll-McLauglin, 18, was charged with deliberate homicide in the July 7 death of Ryan William Eakin. Kroll-McLaughlin did not enter a plea. His bail was set at $200,000 and he requested a public defender.
A witness, identified in court records only by the initial J, told investigators that he had been having some issues with Eakin and got into a car with him and Kroll-McLaughlin on the morning of July 7. They drove to an area near the bus station in Helena where the witness said he was “taken out of the car.”
He said he had his back to a wall and Eakin was leaning next to the car when Kroll-McLaughlin struck him with something in the left cheek, court records said.
At the same time, “J” said he heard a gun go off and saw Eakin make a move like he was ducking.
The witness said Kroll-McLaughlin continued to pursue him and challenged him to fight and he saw a gun in Kroll-McLaughlin’s hand. He said Kroll-McLaughlin asked Eakin for help and then looked away, giving “J” a chance to run away, court records said.
Kroll-McLaughlin is charged with deliberate homicide under the felony murder rule, which alleges he was committing felony assault with a weapon when he caused Eakin’s death. He also is charged with tampering with evidence for trying to get rid of the gun used in the shooting.
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