Trial Set for Lawsuit Seeking Damages for Kalispell Vet Shot in Home

Two Kalispell officers conducting a welfare check shot Ryan Pengelly in 2016

By Justin Franz

A lawsuit brought by a veteran who was shot by two Kalispell Police Department officers in 2016 is set to go to trial in June.

Ryan Pengelly is suing the City of Kalispell and the two Kalispell police officers who shot him while conducting a welfare check on his mother, who was living with him. Pengelly is seeking damages to compensate him for lost wages, emotional distress and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. He is arguing that the officer violated his constitutional rights by entering a home without a warrant and using excessive force.

Pengelly filed the lawsuit in federal court in January 2019 and it is currently set to go to trial in U.S. District Court in Missoula in June.

According to court documents, two Kalispell police officers, later identified as Chad Zimmerman and Eric Brinton, were dispatched to Pengelly’s home northwest of Kalispell on Jan. 12, 2016 after receiving a report of a suicidal woman. After talking to the woman, identified as Bonnie Pengelly, the officers attempted to persuade her to go to the hospital with them. When she retreated into the house, one of the officers grabbed her arm and the woman called for her son.

Pengelly, who had been sleeping in a back room, heard the commotion in the living room and emerged with a loaded rifle. He allegedly pointed the weapon at the two officers. The officers told Pengelly to drop the gun, and when he did not lower it immediately, they opened fire, striking him at least four times.

Pengelly survived the shooting and was later charged with felony assault on a peace officer. That charge was dropped when Pengelly’s attorney presented evidence that the man had not been given enough time to drop his weapon and that his visual and mental reaction time is slower than other people because of injuries he sustained while serving in the military.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting and later cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing. That same investigation eventually led to the charge against Pengelly that was later dropped.

Since the lawsuit was filed, attorneys have gone back and forth trying to dismiss or settle the matter. The defendants also sought to avoid a jury trial. On March 19, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled that some aspects of the case could be determined through summary judgment but a jury will decide other aspects.

The trial is expected to last seven days and is set to begin on June 29.

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