1 dead in Montana, 3 injured including trooper
Corrections & Clarifications: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified Shelley Hayes, the man killed in Thursday’s shooting.
MISSOULA, Mont. – A man was killed and three other people, including a Highway Patrol trooper, were injured in two separate but related shootings in Montana late Thursday night and early Friday morning, authorities say.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said a man suspected in both shootings was arrested early Friday near Evaro, about 10 miles north of Missoula.
Authorities say Shelley Hayes and a friend, Casey Blanchard, were in a pickup truck being driven by Blanchard’s mother, Julie, who picked them up earlier Thursday night at a bar in Missoula.
According to charging documents, a Cadillac Escalade flashed its lights at the pickup and then opened fire on the truck’s occupants, hitting all three.
Authorities found Hayes dead in the truck’s backseat. Casey Blanchard had been shot multiple times but was conscious and Julie Blanchard also had been shot and was conscious, the Associated Press reported, citing the court documents.
Julie Blanchard said the Cadillac followed them from the bar and she pulled over thinking the driver may need help, the AP reported.
A little over an hour after that shooting, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer located a vehicle near a bar in Evaro that match the description of the one involved in the Missoula shooting, according to state Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes.
The trooper reported to dispatchers that he was under fire, and then didn’t answer his radio, authorities say.
Palmer was found wounded and still buckled into his patrol car, according to Montana Highway Patrol officials. The suspect had fled the scene.
Palmer, 35, was initially taken to a hospital in Missoula and listed in critical condition earlier Friday. Later he was airlifted to Salt Lake City for treatment, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department stated.
Palmer has been with MHP since 2012. He has a wife and two young children.
After an extensive manhunt, the Sheriff’s Office took the suspect, identified as Johnathan Bertsch, into custody without incident Friday morning, officials said. He has been charged with deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide.
Authorities found Bertsch with the help of his father, Burton Bertsch, who said his son had called him and told him, “I had a road rage incident. … I think I might have shot a cop,” according to charging documents.
Authorities spoke to Johnathan Bertsch using Burton’s phone, but he refused to tell officers where he was. They found him after someone called 911 to report the Cadillac parked at the bottom of the driveway along a road near the bar, documents said.
He was expected to make an initial court appearance on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
The DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the shooting, Barnes said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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