Kalispell Man Pleads Not Guilty in Lakeside Shooting

Luke Elliot Rutledge, 26, entered the pleas in Flathead County District Court for allegedly shooting at a man outside a Lakeside convenience store, bar and casino

By Maggie Dresser
Luke Elliot Rutledge appears in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Dec. 7, 2023. Rutledge is charged with felony counts of attempted deliberate homicide and criminal endangerment. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A 26-year-old Kalispell man accused of an unprovoked shooting outside a Lakeside convenience store, bar and casino at the end of November pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony counts of attempted deliberate homicide and criminal endangerment.

Luke Elliot Rutledge was arrested last month after allegedly shooting at a man seated in his parked vehicle outside the Lakeside establishment. He entered the not guilty pleas during a Dec. 7 hearing in Flathead County District Court before Judge Dan Wilson. During the hearing, Wilson also denied a request for bail reduction and kept the amount at $200,000.

Rutledge’s substitute counsel William Managhan spoke on behalf of his public defender Liam Gallagher, who requested the bail be reduced to $40,000 and that he wear a GPS monitoring device as part of his conditions of release.

Deputy Flathead County Attorney John Donovan opposed the bail reduction and told the court that, since Rutledge split his time between Montana and Alaska, he had weak ties to the community and could be a flight risk. He also said Rutledge was highly intoxicated at the time of the alleged shooting and that it was unprovoked.

“He just comes here for a period of time, brings a firearm with him, and then the allegations are that he attempted to kill another person – no provocation, no pre-existing relationship between the victim and Mr. Rutledge – which is a terrifying act,” Donovan said.

In denying the request, Judge Wilson cited Rutledge’s lack of substantial ties to the Flathead Valley and his threat to public safety in his decision.

“It’s not a casual event, it’s not a casual allegation,” Wilson said. “It’s a very serious allegation and it appears to the court that Mr. Rutledge does not maintain substantial ties to the community.”

Rutledge remains in the Flathead County Detention Center following his November arrest.

According to charging documents, Rutledge was arrested late on Nov. 24 when Flathead County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to multiple reports of a man, who authorities later identified as Rutledge, shooting at another man who was sitting in his vehicle and using his cell phone in the parking lot of the Joe Blogz gas station in Lakeside.

The victim fled and sought refuge in a bar across U.S. Highway 93, where he called 911 while a bystander pinned Rutledge to the ground in the parking lot. When deputies arrived, they found Rutledge being held down in the parking lot next to the victim’s truck. Law enforcement located a gun holster attached to the suspect’s waistband, records state.

The victim told law enforcement that Rutledge started shooting at him from approximately 6 feet away and he believed he was attempting to kill him, according to charging documents. Authorities spotted four separate bullet indentations on the victim’s vehicle’s driver’s side door near where the victim was sitting and another bullet hole on the driver’s side tailgate.

After the victim ran across the street, witnesses saw Rutledge inside of the victim’s vehicle, the records state. A bystander pulled Rutledge out of the vehicle and held him on the ground while another bystander removed a firearm from the small of Rutledge’s back, according to charging documents.

Rutledge is scheduled to stand trial on July 22, 2024.

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