Police Identify Two Theories in February 12 Downtown Incident
Acting Missoula Police Chief Mike Colyer addressed reporters on Tuesday to provide as much information as possible about what really happened on the morning of February 12 when a police officer believed he was under fire, which resulted in a large scale response.
Colyer first described what happened from the perspective of the officer involved that morning.
“We had an experienced, well trained police officer who clearly believed he had been shot upon,” began Colyer. “The way he positioned his car, he immediately jumped out of the car, armed himself with a rifle and started looking for a threat. He told me that he was just shocked that when he looked up he didn’t identify a threat. He was convinced that there would be somebody there with a firearm confronting him. That carries a lot of credibility with me in that account, and what corroborated that account was the two people in the car right across the street that had the exact same perception.”
Colyer said investigators were unable to find any bullet fragments either inside the police vehicle or in the vicinity of the vehicle that would clearly prove that a bullet struck the rear window; despite the fact that the officer and witnesses said they heard a ‘pop’ like a gunshot just prior to the window shattering.
“At the end of the day, we have corroboration of both theories,” he said. “We have corroboration to what we believe was that somebody shot at a car with something, and we have corroboration to the fact that it could have been a manufacturer’s defect. The car was about five years old; it was a moderate day temperature-wise, so we don’t have a lot of extremes like a brand new product out there on a really hot or a really cold day, so there are a fair amount of unknowns. I’m sorry to leave it there with you guys (reporters) that we don’t have a lot on what caused it, but I wanted to give you an update as to where we’re at.”
After the initial event, Colyer initiated a response using a tactical team that shut down a large area in downtown Missoula, posting heavily armed police officers, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement personnel on rooftops and strategic locations to keep people away from what could have been a dangerous area.
KGVO asked Colyer if that particular response was justified, considering the fact that no one was actually injured or wounded.
“Without a doubt,” said Colyer instantly. “I think it’s entirely appropriate to respond proactively like that. It is all about ensuring safety; the safety of any uninvolved third party out there, the safety of our officers to have the right people there with the right training to handle that mission and ultimately for the safety of the suspect, if and when a suspect is located. If no suspect is located, what’s the downside? There were some people inconvenienced? I understand that. There are some people that don’t appreciate the optics of that, and I understand that, as well. But, at the end of the day, that’s the downside of deploying a team like that and then no one is found. Conversely, the downside of not activating a team and if there was a person with a firearm then you run the risk of having a tragedy. I erred on the side of public safety and I erred on the side of us getting in front of this as quickly as we could, and that team is the best team to do it.”
Colyer expressed his appreciation to the many downtown businesses and organizations that stopped him on the street and expressed their thanks for response by law enforcement.
Colyer said if someone is found to have shot at the officer’s vehicle, they could be charged with attempted deliberate homicide, but that would be up to the Missoula County Attorney’s office.
There are no suspects at this time, and Colyer reiterated his request for anyone who may have witnessed the incident or has knowledge of who may have been responsible, to contact the Missoula Police department at 552-6300.