A 19-year-old man accused of beating a homeless man to death outside a Kalispell gas station early Sunday morning has been charged with a felony count of deliberate homicide in Flathead County District Court.
Kaleb Elijah Fleck, of Kalispell, was booked in the Flathead County Detention Center on June 25 on a $500,000 bond.
According to an affidavit filed by Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner, Kalispell Police Department officers responded at 2:20 a.m. to a report of an assault at the Conoco gas station at the intersection of Meridian Road and Appleway Drive, where they found a man lying face down on the ground behind the building.
Law enforcement later identified the victim as Scott Bryan, a 60-year-old homeless man, who they noticed was bleeding profusely and had significant facial and head injuries. Officers observed lacerations, exposed bone and an apparent crushed nasal cavity, court documents state.
Paramedics arrived shortly after law enforcement and transported Bryan to Logan Health, where he was pronounced dead at 3 a.m.
A witness at the scene showed officers an 8-second video of the incident, which allegedly showed Fleck and 18-year-old Wiley Meeker, of Somers. The camera pans between Fleck and Scott’s motionless body on the ground where Meeker says, “You (expletive) that guy up dude,” with Fleck responding, “Step up. Step up (expletive).”
Meeker was arrested on a pending deliberate homicide charge at the time of the alleged assault on June 25 and he was released from the Flathead County Detention Center on June 27, according to the jail roster.
Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner told the Beacon that Meeker is under investigation, but he is not currently charged with any felonies.
Authorities located Meeker and Fleck at separate locations and interviewed them individually, records state. Both admitted they were at the gas station in Meeker’s truck, and both said an individual approached the vehicle. Fleck admitted to exiting the vehicle and assaulting Bryan, records state. Meeker told law enforcement that he pulled Fleck away from Bryan before leaving the scene, records state.
After obtaining a warrant, officers searched the residence where Fleck was located after the incident and found a pair of boots with suspected blood stains in the garage, according to the affidavit.
On Tuesday, Samaritan House Executive Director Chris Krager told the Beacon that Bryan had recently been a client at the homeless shelter. He also said that young adults have been frequently assaulting and harassing the homeless population in the Flathead Valley, which has become a trend.
“This is astounding to me,” Krager said. “There’s been a pattern of this type of thing.”
While Krager said he did not know Bryan well, he described him as a kind and respectful person who was dealing with health issues.
Krager said that a lack of housing and resources has led to an increase in homelessness in recent years and has created more visibility of the issue in the community – resulting in a negative sentiment among the public.
“It’s complex and multi-layered,” Krager said. “There are gaps (in services), and homelessness is more visible.”
Homelessness in the community has been a frequent source of discussion in the last year at public meetings as individuals continue to congregate in public spaces.
Earlier this year, Flathead County commissioners Pam Holmquist, Brad Abell and Randy Brodehl published a letter in local newspapers referencing the growing homeless population in the county. In the letter, they suggested that community nonprofits and services had enabled the homeless population and empowered the “homeless lifestyle.”
Meanwhile in Kalispell, city officials have limited access in Depot Park’s gazebo, which had been a frequent hub for homeless populations. This winter, the city temporarily closed the gazebo, and the council passed an ordinance that requires a permit for extended use of the structure.
Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell said at a council meeting earlier this month that the city will likely implement strategies to deter homeless people from congregating in public spaces. Examples include cutting off water spigot access and electricity and retrofitting park benches with a metal bar to dissuade people from sleeping on them.
This story was updated to include Meeker’s release from the Flathead County Detention Center.
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