An armed Canadian national who allegedly kayaked across Lake Koocanusa and evaded capture for more than six hours in the woods northwest of Eureka has been charged with illegal entry and illegal possession of a firearm in U.S. District Court.
Tommy Plante, 31, made an initial appearance in front of Judge Kathleen DeSoto in Missoula on April 23, four days after he was first reported as a possible border-crosser by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), according to charging documents. Mounties alerted U.S. Border Patrol agents in Eureka that they had discovered a vehicle on the side of the road near Lake Koocanusa — which straddles the U.S.-Canada border — with a note reading “Free Car, Enjoy.” The keys were in the vehicle’s ignition and the license plates had been removed.
Law enforcement eventually connected the vehicle to Plante and learned that he left his home in Edmonton, Alberta with an orange kayak strapped to the top of the car.
The next day, April 20, an RCMP aircraft notified border patrol that an orange kayak had been found on the American side of Lake Koocanusa. Less than an hour later, at 9:45 a.m., a border patrol agent discovered a campsite near an area called Boat Camp, about a quarter-mile south of the border and five miles west of the Roosville Point of Entry.
When the agent stepped toward a camper at the site, later identified as Plante, the agent introduced himself by saying, “How are you doing? U.S. Border Patrol.” Plante responded by taking two steps toward the agent, grabbing a rifle that was leaning against a tree and slinging it over his shoulder. Plante put his hands in the air, but when the agent asked him to drop the rifle, he refused, saying, “no one is taking my rifle.”
After continued attempts to get him to drop his weapon failed, Plante grabbed a water bottle and took off into the woods.
Not long afterward, at approximately 9:57 a.m., a different agent located Plante hiding behind a tree. When the agent got a better view, he observed Plante lying in a prone position with his rifle barrel pointed toward the agent. The agent took cover and lost sight of Plante.
The next contact with Plante did not come until 4:18 p.m., when a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officer reported having contact with an armed man near Ingram Road outside Eureka, more than five miles from the site of the initial confrontation. A helicopter later spotted Plante in the area and saw him, “walking, climbing and crawling up and through timber and brush in rough terrain.”
Once law enforcement surrounded Plante, a deputy from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was able to subdue him using an electronic control device. Plante was in possession of two knives and a “loaded and scoped” bolt-action rifle at the time of his arrest.
Court documents show Plante has no prior immigration or criminal history.
The international border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed for more than a year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
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