On June 30, 2022, a Missoula Police Department officer was assisting Missoula Parks and Recreation with park cleanup and illegal campsite removal. The officer noticed a fortified camp near the California Street Foot Bridge. The officer confirmed that the person living under the bridge was 32-year-old Erica Winter. Police Public Information Officer Lydia Arnold explains. 

“This camp was creating a hazard to the community,” Arnold said. “It was full of trash and could become a public health hazard. Officers had prior contact with Winter and provided a way for her to clean up the trash and advised that she was not able to establish a campsite. At that time, Winter was not removed from the campsite. She was educated and was provided materials to clean up. Winter did not adhere to the education provided by officers and prior to this clean-up, a big notice to vacate had been posted. Winter still did not leave and Parks and Recreation requested assistance.” 

On July 21, 2022, at around 9:00 am, officers arrived on scene in Silver Park to assist in the cleanup. The officers approached Winter’s encampment, which was still located under the bridge. Officers spoke to Winter and observed a green hatchet hanging from a rope right in front of Winter’s face. 

“For the safety of Winter, the officers, and the public around the area, the officer attempted to remove the hatchet out of reach. Winter grabbed onto the hatchet and got into a physical disturbance with the officer. Winter kicked the officer, causing injury and pain to the officer and jeopardizing the safety of all involved.” 

The officer feared that if Winter were able to use the hatchet, they could be seriously hurt by the weapon. The officer yelled for Winter to drop the hatchet, but Winter refused. At one point, an officer engaged with Winter and knocked the hatchet out of her hand with an arm strike.  

Winter was advised multiple times that she was under arrest, but she reacted by screaming, yelling, and physically resisting. Additional officers arrived and were able to assist in gaining control of Winter. Winter was transported to the Missoula County Detention Center. She is currently being charged with felony assault with a weapon and resisting arrest. 

The information in this article was obtained from sources that are publicly viewable.

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