A 20-year-old Flathead County man has been charged with felony burglary after being involved in a standoff in Hungry Horse last month.
James Smith pleaded not guilty to the charge in Flathead County District Court on Feb. 6.
According to authorities, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received information about four stolen snowmobiles at a home on River Drive on Jan. 29. Deputies responded to the home and made contact with the owners, which led to the discovery of the snowmobiles. During the investigation, a man who apparently had been hiding in the attic fell out of the ceiling of an outbuilding and fled the scene. Deputies began to chase the man, later identified as Smith.
Smith allegedly tried to break into a neighboring home to hide but could not get in. He ran into another home next door and police set up a perimeter around the building. Due to the presence of weapons inside the home, the SWAT team was called in.
Law enforcement tried to negotiate with Smith for two hours. During the negotiations, Smith made numerous threats to law enforcement and allegedly fired a gun, damaging the interior of the home. Eventually officers fired a can of tear gas into the building. Smith exited the building and was arrested.
According to Sheriff Brian Heino, Smith has an extensive criminal record, although much of it is under seal because he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes. In 2012, according to the Daily Inter Lake, after being arrested for a series of burglaries, Smith, then 12, escaped the Flathead County Juvenile Detention Center by sneaking through a hole in the ceiling of the outdoor recreation area. Once outside, he stole a girl’s bicycle and headed for Evergreen. He was found later that evening.
Smith will stand trial later this year. If convicted he could spend up to 20 years in prison.
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