A Whitefish man accused of fatally shooting his neighbor during an altercation over noise levels at an apartment complex during the early morning hours of Jan. 24 last year is now standing trial in Flathead County District Court.
The jury panel heard an opening statement from Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner in the case against Steven Justin Hedrick, who has pleaded not guilty a single felony count of deliberate homicide. Judge Amy Eddy is presiding over the trial.
Hedrick’s defense attorney, Amanda Gordon, did not deliver an opening statement.
Ahner described the incident, which occurred at the Locals Monthly Lodging at Whitefish on U.S. Highway 93, as a confrontation between Hedrick and an obnoxious drunk neighbor who was disturbing the tenants in the middle of the night following a breakup.
Ahner told the jury that the victim, Jeff Brookshire, had previously lived on the same floor as Hedrick with his ex-girlfriend, who had recently kicked him out.
Brookshire moved to another unit in the apartment complex but after heavy drinking in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, 2023, he began yelling and banging on his ex-girlfriend’s door and disturbing the neighbors in the process.
The defendant, who was on crutches from a previous injury, meanwhile stepped outside to smoke a cigarette amid the commotion while Brookshire retreated upstairs.
When Hedrick returned to his room, Brookshire came back downstairs to his ex-girlfriend’s door and continued making noise and disturbing the neighbors.
At this point, surveillance footage shows that Hedrick grabbed a .44 magnum revolver, which he set on the counter next to the doorway and stuck his head out of the apartment when Brookshire approached him.
Following a verbal exchange, Hedrick grabbed the gun and pointed it toward Brookshire.
“As he’s stepping toward him, Mr. Hedrick levels that gun right at Jeff’s head – inches away,” Ahner said. “And the first thing Jeff does is he points it at himself and he’s yelling and then he grabs the barrel of that gun and down he goes instantly.”
After the shooting, Hedrick immediately called 911 and admitted to the dispatcher that he shot and killed his neighbor.
Once Whitefish Police Department officers arrived, Hedrick identified himself as the suspect and showed authorities to his apartment room.
“He’s perfectly cooperative with law enforcement,” Ahner said.
Hedrick’s trial was continued last fall after his previous attorneys, Lane Bennett and Sean Hinchey, argued that Flathead County’s jury pool was improperly drawn when the clerk of court did not follow proper protocol when she failed to follow up with residents who don’t respond to their jury notices. The attorneys petitioned the Montana Supreme Court for a writ of supervisory control, asking the high court to intervene in the case and determine the next steps.
The issue reflected a statewide trend that has disrupted criminal cases headed for trial across Montana.
However, the Flathead County District Court submitted a summary response to Chief Justice Mike McGrath explaining that it had provided a certified list of individuals who had not responded to the previous jury notices to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office “and the Sheriff’s Office will personally serve these individuals,” according to the jurist’s order, which declared the matter “resolved.”
Witness testimony will continue Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 9 a.m.
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