MISSOULA, Mont. – The Missoula County Attorney’s Office will decide on charges for a man who exchanged gunfire with a Missoula police officer early Thursday morning after a crash and a chase.
An investigation will determine whether that officer was justified in his handling of the situation, and the results of that investigation will determine what charges the suspect will ultimately face.
The incident began just before 3:30 a.m. on Thursday when Missoula Police were notified of a car crash in the 900 block of North Orange Street.
“The complaint also advised that a driver of one of the vehicles had pulled out a handgun and fired off a couple of rounds near the scene. When the officer got there, there was only one driver there,” Missoula Police Department spokesman Sgt. Travis Welsh said. “The other who was described as driving a Chevy pickup truck, blue in color, had left.”
While searching for the assailant’s pickup truck, Missoula police were told about a vehicle that matched that description pulling alongside another vehicle and flashed his gun. MPD was then able to locate the truck and attempted to initiate a traffic stop. A chase ensued leading officers to the end of Otis Street where the assailant got out of his truck, firearm in hand.
“As the officer tried to apprehend the suspect there [was] an exchange of shots and eventually the suspect put his weapon down and attempted to leave the scene on foot,” Sgt. Welsh said. “He was quickly apprehended and after a brief struggle where he was resisting he was taken into custody.”
The man involved, identified as Donald Stebbins, 26, will now wait as the county attorney’s office reviews MPD’s investigation report to determine what charges to file.
Because a weapon was fired by an MPD officer during the incident there will now be a “Use of Force investigation” to determine if the officer was justified in his handling of the situation.
“The Missoula Police Department has asked the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation to investigate the use of force,” Sgt. Welsh said. “In other words, the shooting part of this whole case. However the Missoula Police Department is conducting our own criminal investigation into the matter,” Welsh added.
That officer is now on administrative leave, which is standard practice.
Meanwhile, Stebbins is being held on $100,000 bond at the Missoula jail on Assault with a Weapon charges. He is scheduled to appear in a Missoula courtroom on Friday.
No one was seriously injured during the incident.
Story by Connor McCauley, MTN News