Officer Shot, Suspect Killed Outside Sanders County Bar

Unidentified man allegedly fired at deputies after standoff; Kalispell Police Department officer treated for non-life threatening injuries

By Andy Viano
Sheriff's vehicle. Beacon file photo

A 35-year-old man is dead and a Kalispell Police Department officer is recovering after a shooting outside the Naughty Pine Saloon near Trout Creek just after midnight Friday.

The Montana Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has opened a probe into the incident, which began around 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 11 when the suspect entered the bar armed with a handgun and an assault rifle.

According to a press release issued by the DCI, a deputy with the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene first and began to negotiate with the armed subject, who had barricaded himself and a small number of patrons inside the building.

When the subject refused to cooperate with the deputy, the Missoula County and Flathead County sheriff’s offices were contacted and deployed their negotiation and SWAT teams. Flathead County’s team also includes members of the Kalispell Police Department.

After some period of negotiation, most of the patrons were able to exit the saloon safely although the suspect and a member of his family remained inside. Law enforcement deployed tear gas to draw the family member outside the building where they were arrested.

When the suspect exited the bar, he was brandishing a firearm and law enforcement used non-lethal rounds to attempt to stop him. Those rounds were ineffective, and the subject allegedly fired at officers pursuing him as he attempted to flee, striking one of them. Law enforcement returned fire and fatally wounded the suspect. The injured officer was treated for a non-life threatening gunshot wound and released from the hospital. Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino identified the officer as a member of the Kalispell Police Department.

Heino also added that two of his deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave, standard procedure for officers involved in a shooting.

The Sanders County Sheriff’s Office requested DCI’s involvement in the case and the department’s findings will eventually be submitted to the Sanders County Attorney’s Office for review.

“These are always complex cases and will require thorough crime scene processing, extensive interviews, and a full assessment of the events leading up to the incident,” DCI Administrator Bryan Lockerby wrote. “With multiple law enforcement agencies involved and dynamic events happening, it takes a considerable amount of resources for a thorough and thoughtful investigation.”

Friday’s incident marks the third time this year that the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has been involved in a fatal shooting, a dramatic turn for a department that had not previously taken a suspect’s life in more than a decade. In June, a man suspected in a Kalispell homicide was shot after a vehicle pursuit near Woods Bay, and in May a Kila man was killed outside his home after a lengthy standoff. This summer, Heino called the shootings “our worst nightmare.”

Update (Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.): This story has been updated to include information provided by Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino and details on prior officer-involved shootings this year.

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