Missoula police shoot two suspects in a 24-hour period

Missoula County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Rio

Missoula County Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Rio

Props to my girl Kathryn Haake for starting this report on the two police shootings that occurred in Missoula last week with “No new information has been released in the investigations of two officer-involved shootings that left a Missoula man dead and an Evaro man injured last week.” I can hear the editorial decision in that sentence. Although we may not have more information, we got a lot more conjecture yesterday, when attorney Terance Perry told the Missoulian that Kaileb Williams had been shot “execution style” by the MCPD. Perry also says that Williams’s mother was initially told that Williams committed suicide. His obituary, which ran in the same issue of the paper as the article announcing his shooting, says he “passed away suddenly.”

So everyone at the Missoulian is nuts except for Kathryn, and we’re going to get an inquest out of at least one of these shootings. The MCPD says Williams punched his mother, took his girlfriend hostage and led police on a high-speed chase before his car stopped on the entrance ramp to Reserve Street, where he was strangling her when Officer Paul Kelly1 shot him through the driver-side window. Kelly says he talked to him for about five minutes before he pulled the trigger.

Perry says that Williams’s girlfriend was never held against her will, and she’s willing to testify to that. He argues that elements of the police account don’t make sense, including the apparently conflicting claims that A) they didn’t know if Williams was armed because it was too dark to see into the car, and B) they had to shoot him because he was strangling her.

Through Perry, she says he was holding her head down to keep her out of the line of fire. That sounds suspect, too, but perhaps not as questionable as Kelly’s decision to shoot Williams through the driver’s side window to save a woman in the passenger seat. That could have gone badly. We’re not even going to consider whether the MCPD really did tell William’s mother that he shot himself, because that possibility is too awful to think about.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Tony Rio of the Sheriff’s Department, who was apparently promoted to Captain of Professional Standards hours before he shot Eugene Statelan in Evaro. Statelan was also trying to evade capture and drove toward Rio after the officer got out of his car in an alley. Such events are difficult to reconstruct third-hand, but Rio says he was afraid Statelan was going to run over him, so he shot once through the passenger-side window and once through the rear windshield.

I will leave the reader to reconstruct the logistics of Rio’s fear on that last one. The good news is that police in Missoula rarely shoot people, and it’s unheard-of for them to do it twice in 24 hours. Coincidence is not malfeasance. There are some questions bubbling up here, however, and I’m glad the authorities plan to ask them.


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