BILLINGS – No federal charges will be brought in the killing of three people who entered a house on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation and were engaged in a shooting that also left two occupants injured, prosecutors said Friday.
Montana U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said the shooting last Aug. 4 in Lodge Grass had been a priority for his office. But prosecutors determined after a 10-month investigation that it was impossible to prove who shot whom and in what order in the deadly confrontation.
Federal prosecutors also said they would not be able to overcome claims that the killings resulted from self-defense or defense of another.
Tribal leaders have previously said the killings were linked to methamphetamine use and imposed a curfew in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which sparked demands from tribal members for more law enforcement on the reservation. The tribe hasn’t released specifics on the drug connection and federal authorities have not commented publicly on the matter.
Denise Stewart Nomee, 25, her husband, Leslie Frank Nomee Jr., 27, and Nehemiah Brokenrope, 30, were killed. Investigators said they forcibly entered the house carrying at least one gun and possibly other weapons and that one of the occupants also had a gun.
The names of those injured have not been released.
The house where the shootings took place burned to the ground in the days after the killing. It’s not known how that affected the investigation.
Lodge Grass is a town of roughly 400 people located 25 miles north of the Wyoming border. Family members of the three deceased victims were notified of the decision not to bring charges on Friday.
“There is no way to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, who actually fired the shots that killed any of the decedents,” Alme’s office said in a statement.
Crow tribal prosecutors could still bring charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said. However, it was not immediately known if they plan to do so.
Johnson would not say how many shots were fired in the shooting or speculate on a motive. In declining to give more details on what happened, Johnson cited “respect for the tribe’s sovereignty and the privacy of the deceased and the remaining folks that survived.”
Crow spokesman Jared Stewart said Friday he was unaware of the decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and so could not immediately comment.
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