Crime

Man Shot and Killed by Kalispell Police

Police say officer killed suspect inside business after man armed with heavy wood object charged patrons and officer; uninvolved female bystander wounded during incident

By Andy Viano
Kalispell Police Department police car as seen on August 14, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

An officer with the Kalispell Police Department (KPD) fatally shot an unidentified man inside a south Kalispell business Friday night.

According to a press release issued by KPD, officers were called to the area near U.S. Highway 93 and Cemetery Road just before 10 p.m. after someone reported a vehicle was intentionally ramming other vehicles. Law enforcement soon discovered the vehicle in question but found it unoccupied.

A brief search ensued and one officer entered a nearby business, where the suspect “attacked,” the press release states, charging the officer while armed with an “object.” The officer responded with gunfire, fatally shooting the suspect.

Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, whose office is leading the investigation, described the “object” the man was wielding as a heavy club-like piece of wood that looked similar to a short baseball bat or a “tire thumper, ” an item commonly used by truck drivers to test tire pressure. Investigators had not yet determined precisely what the object was.

The investigation remains in its preliminary stages, but Heino said the suspect was armed with the wood object and charging at patrons and the officer before the shooting took place. The shooting occurred inside a convenience store with a handful of other people inside, according to Heino. The convenience store is adjacent to a casino that contained additional patrons.

In an updated release sent out just before 11 a.m., KPD added that a second person, a woman described as an “uninvolved bystander,” was wounded during the course of the incident. Kalispell Chief of Police Doug Overman said he could not comment on how the woman was injured but said she was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

In an interview with the Beacon, Overman provided little additional detail on the incident beyond what was in the release, citing the ongoing investigation. Overman also declined to identify the officer, who has been placed on paid administrative leave per standard protocol.

Deadly officer-involved shootings have been uncommonly frequent in Northwest Montana in the last nine months. Last May, a deputy with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office shot and killed a man outside his home in Kila. One month later, officers fatally shot a homicide suspect after a pursuit ended near Woods Bay. And in December, police fatally wounded a man who was fleeing a Trout Creek bar following a standoff.

Update (Feb. 27, 11:20 a.m.): This article has been updated to include information on an injured bystander and responses from Kalispell Chief of Police Doug Overman and Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino.

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