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Officers' names released after McDonald's shooting

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 01:26:57 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 06:32:55 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The Missoula Police Department released the names of the two officers involved in a shooting incident Monday night at the McDonald’s on the 700 block of East Broadway.   

Just before 9:30 Monday night, someone at the McDonald's restaurant recognized a suspect wanted for parole violation, 47-year-old Dawnette Eaton of Missoula.    

Authorities said Eaton is currently on probation and there’s a $150,000 warrant for her arrest related to a drug investigation.  Eaton has previous convictions out of Silver Bow, Gallatin and Missoula counties on forgery, theft and drug charges.   

Police chief Mark Muir explained what happened when two Missoula officers approached her at her vehicle.

"She put the car in reverse and ran over one of our officers, causing the officer to be seriously injured.  The other officer who was present at the scene was on the driver's side of the vehicle and fired one round at the driver, who we now have reason to believe was struck by the officer's bullet," said Muir.

MPD Patrol Officer Deni Poling is the officer who was run over by the wanted parole violator.  Poling was taken to St. Patrick Hospital Monday night where she underwent surgery for serious injuries.  Poling has served with the MPD for nearly seven years.   

MPD Patrol supervisor Lt. Rich Stepper is the officer who had contact with Eaton and was attempting to identify her as she put her vehicle into gear, ignoring Stepper’s orders, and striking Poling with her car. 

Stepper, who has served for the MPD for 21 years, is now on paid administrative leave while the MPD Office of Professional Standards conducts an internal review of the officer involved shooting. 

Muir told NBC Montana after the incident Eaton ditched her car, a red 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix, a few blocks away from the McDonald’s, at Hartman and Front Streets. 

NBC Montana talked to Missoula Sheriff's Department Detective Jason Johnson who told us that Eaton called a friend "who picked her up and took her to the house where she was found."

Eaton was found in a home on the south side.  She is currently receiving medical treatment for a gunshot wound to the arm.  We have been told the wound is not life-threatening. 

After the incident, officers and search dogs from several agencies quickly began scouring the area, searching door to door Monday night. 

Muir is supporting the actions of Stepper who quickly drew his gun.

"The officer, to the best of my knowledge, responded appropriately in an effort to stop her from doing that.  Unfortunately, the damage had been done by that point and the suspect got away, but we will do our best to bring her to justice,” Muir said.

Johnson told us that an anonymous phone call from a Missoula resident helped officers catch Eaton.  He says it's always difficult to have an officer get seriously injured on the job. 

"As officers we work together everyday, we spend more time with each other than our families, so we certainly look out for each other and it's horrible to think that something would happen to the person you work with closely everyday," said Johnson.  "Honestly the difference in our profession is that your counting on that other person's ability to save your life if need be."

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a full investigation into the shooting incident.  Tuesday the sheriff’s office will be conducting follow up interviews and completing a search of the suspect’s vehicle and the apartment where she was located and arrested.

Authorities tell us the investigation may take several days to a week to complete.

NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and we’ll bring you the details as we learn more.