The 59-year-old man who died after exchanging gunfire with law enforcement south of Woods Bay on Tuesday afternoon is suspected of killing a 62-year-old woman in Kalispell earlier that day.
The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office released new details on Wednesday, outlining a homicide investigation that culminated in an exchange of gunfire near the small waterfront community on the east shore of Flathead Lake.
Deputies were called to 135 Cobbler Village, west of Kalispell, just after 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday and discovered Maxine L. Heil dead of a gunshot wound. During the course of their investigation, deputies received information about the alleged suspect and his vehicle, and that vehicle was spotted less than three hours later at the intersection of Highway 82 and Hanging Rock Drive, just west of Highway 35.
A deputy attempted to pull the vehicle over, but it did not stop and a pursuit began, traveling southbound on Highway 35 and into Lake County. The Montana Highway Patrol joined the pursuit and a deputy from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office deployed spike strips, bringing the vehicle to a stop south of Woods Bay.
Once his vehicle was disabled, authorities say the suspect, identified as Richard L. Mason of Kalispell, fired at the responding officers. Flathead County Deputy Matthew Vander Ark returned fire, as did Highway Patrol Trooper Jerry Ren. Mason died at the scene.
Vander Ark, a seven-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Mason and Heil shared the address at Cobbler Village, where Heil was Mason’s tenant, according to Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino. Both bodies have been transported to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for further examination.
The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the Woods Bay shooting. The investigation into the Flathead County homicide is ongoing.
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