Kalispell Men Accused of Shooting at Boaters

Men pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal endangerment

By Justin Franz

Two Kalispell men have been charged with felony criminal endangerment after allegedly firing a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle toward a group of floaters on the Flathead River in Columbia Falls.

Ryan and Jason Bauch both pleaded not guilty in Flathead County District Court at arraignments on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 before Judge Robert Allison.

According to court documents, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received reports of shots being fired on July 24 in the area of Jellison and South Hilltop Roads in Columbia Falls. Upon arrival, the deputies found bullets on the side of the river and lodged in nearby trees.

Deputies spoke to a woman who said she was floating the river with her boyfriend and four children when they were shot at. The woman said multiple bullets were impacting the water in front of and behind their rafts and some were even whizzing over their heads. She began to scream that there were children on the rafts and that whoever was shooting in their direction needed to stop. Another couple in a canoe also reported being shot at.

The deputies found three men in an area about 200 yards from the river, including Ryan, 32, and Jason, 33. Ryan and Jason said that they had been shooting an AR-15 rifle and a semiautomatic 9mm pistol and that before firing they yelled out toward the river “this is declared a fire zone.” The men then waited a few minutes to see if there was a response and then started shooting. The two men said they never heard anyone yelling from the river because they were wearing ear protection.

If convicted, the two men could spend up to 10 years in prison and have to pay a $50,000 fine.

Both men are expected to go to trial in early 2017.