The man shot by a Deer Lodge police officer Monday fired between 50 and 60 shots during the barricade situation, Powell County Sheriff Scott Howard said Tuesday.
Howard said someone easily could have been injured just walking by the house that morning. He said he does not know whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the man’s rampage.
He said, “It used to be that people fired a weapon at an officer for a reason. We do not want to shoot people, but an officer could have died yesterday just because someone was angry. It’s getting crazy when people do not know how to deal with life.”
The investigation into the incident continues. Powell County Sheriff Scott Howard said that darkness halted investigators' work Monday and guards were posted to protect the scene. Tuesday morning a forensic team from the state Department of Criminal Investigation was working to collect evidence at the scene.
The Montana Highway Patrol Virtual Station is assisting as well. Howard said a search warrant was obtained and a drone was used to obtain an overview of the area.
The man, apparently distraught after an argument Sunday with a woman at a house in the 800 block of Higgins Avenue, returned Monday morning after the woman had left the residence. He locked himself in and then began firing two guns, police said.
The incident began Sunday night when police received a call about a disturbance at the address. When they arrived, a couple was engaged in a verbal argument. Police recommended the couple separate. The man went to a motel and the woman remained in the home until early Monday morning, when she drove to Missoula.
The man returned to the home after the woman left, and soon afterward began shooting.
Dispatch received reports of gunfire; city and county law enforcement officers responded to the residence. Deer Lodge schools were locked down as a precaution.
As officers arrived at the home, the suspect fired multiple shots out of a broken window, striking one city officer’s vehicle. The officer fired one shot with his rifle, hitting the man.
Howard said that after being shot, the man called 911 twice, saying he was no longer armed and needed help. Officers hesitated the first time, unsure if he was really unarmed; but after the second call broke the door and found the man with a severely injured right arm and a shrapnel wound to his eye. Ambulance personnel rendered aid and took him to Deer Lodge Medical Center before he was transferred by helicopter to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, where he underwent surgery. He remains in ICU.
The officer involved is on administrative leave.
Howard said that after the DCI investigation is complete, it will be up to the County Attorney to decide what charges, if any, will be filed.