The officer who fatally shot a man during a welfare check near East Helena earlier this month has returned to full duty.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said deputy Andrew Blythe, 29, was placed on administrative leave immediately after the Feb. 1 shooting and returned to the patrol division Feb. 20. His case was reviewed by a panel of law enforcement officers that was chaired by Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Jason Grimmis and included Broadwater County Undersheriff Brandon Harris.
"They reviewed Deputy Blythe's body camera, all the in-car cameras, written reports and found no policy violations," Dutton told the Independent Record. "Also, as per policy, Deputy Blythe was evaluated by a mental health professional and was determined fit for duty."
Dutton asked the Montana Department of Criminal Investigations to conduct the criminal investigation, which he said could take five more weeks to complete.
"The Montana Criminal Investigation Division will take longer as they fully process the scene and corroborate all the witness statements and physical evidence," he said.
The final review will be a coroner's inquest, which Montana law requires whenever law enforcement is involved in a fatal shooting or someone dies in law enforcement custody. As part of this process, a citizen jury will hear testimony and then make a recommendation on whether criminal charges are warranted.
Blythe fatally shot Taylor Schnortz, 26, of Townsend, just before midnight at a home on Casper Drive. The sheriff’s office responded to the home after being asked to check on a man who was cutting himself, Dutton said. The person who called 911 said the man was bleeding from self-inflicted injuries and was suicidal.
Dutton said deputies verbally negotiated with the suspect for about an hour, but the man forced the deputy to shoot. The suspect did not fire his weapon and no law enforcement officers were injured, the sheriff said.