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Details released in Ravalli County shooting death

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Mar 07 2014 08:52:44 AM MST
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 06:30:11 PM MST

A state investigation releases information on officer involved shooting in the Skalkaho area Thursday evening.

HAMILTON, Mont. -

Montana's Justice Department just released new details on Thursday night's officer-involved shooting near the Skalkaho area. 

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman has requested the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation look into the case.

State investigators said about 7:39 p.m. Thursday a woman called the Ravalli County Sheriff's office. She said her son was having problems with his girlfriend at his house.

At 8 p.m., a 47-year-old man at Cuf Lane off North Shoshone Loop requested a deputy come to his house. About 8:20 p.m. he called 9-1-1. The caller said he was having problems with his girlfriend, who wasn't in the house. A deputy arrived at 8:30.

The next door neighbor was busy with his kids.

"Putting the children to bed," said Travis Valla, "and my son had noticed some lights out back."

Investigators said the man talked to the deputy who had arrived, and was angry and agitated.

Reports said he accused the deputy of not being real law enforcement. The report said the man then walked toward a weapon in the room. The deputy told him not to pick it up.

The report said the man did pick it up, and turned it on the deputy, and the deputy fired on the man and killed him.

One neighbor woman was in bed when she heard the gunshot. She said it sounded liked a "ping." Then she saw flashing lights outside.

"It worried me," she said. "I locked my doors."

Neighbors saw law enforcement cars drive onto Cuf Lane.

"Seen two ambulances," said Dwayne Bode, "and knew nothing good was going to come about."

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The following is a news release from the Montana Department of Justice:

"Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman has requested that the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation look into an officer-involved shooting that took place Thursday night near Hamilton.

At 7:39pm yesterday, a woman called the Ravalli County Sheriff Office’s non-emergency number saying her son was having problems with his girlfriend at his residence. At approximately 8pm, the 47-year-old male in question called the non-emergency number requesting a deputy come to his residence at 808 Cuf Lane. At 8:21pm, the man called 911 and continued to talk about problems he was having with his girlfriend, who was not present in the home. A deputy arrived shortly before 8:30pm.

While talking with the deputy for several minutes, the man was angry and agitated, accusing the deputy of not being a real law enforcement officer. The man then walked toward a weapon that was visible in the room. The deputy told the man not to pick up the weapon but he disregarded the instructions and did so anyway, turning the weapon toward the deputy. In response to the threat, the deputy fired on the man and killed him. He died at the scene.

In accordance with standard procedure, the deputy involved – a three-year veteran of the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office – has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident.

Powell County Coroner John Pohle will be the coroner on this case. Once the state’s investigation is complete, the case file will be presented to Coroner Pohle and the Ravalli County Attorney for review. A coroner’s inquest will be scheduled and held in Ravalli County.

City police departments and county sheriff offices routinely request the Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation to investigate officer-involved shootings.

More information will be released when it becomes available."

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Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman has confirmed that there was an officer involved shooting last night south of Hamilton near the Skalkaho area. That's southeast of Hamilton about 3 miles from Highway 93.

Law enforcement have cordoned off a one-story gray house.  Sheriff's department crews are on scene as well as a special state investigative unit from Helena.

We talked with a neighbor, Travis Valla. Valla is a young father who was putting his kids to bed last night.  He said his son looked out the window about 9 and saw flashing lights. 

A Ravalli County Sheriff's deputy knocked on his door and said an incident had occured next door but had been resolved.

Valla said a middle-aged couple have lived in the house for a number of years.  He says they were quiet and always waved when they pulled out of their driveway or mowed their lawn in the summer. But he says he didn't really know them.

Our reporter is still on the scene and will provide updates as they become available.

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The following press release was sent out by Ravalli County Sheriff's Department:

"Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman has confirmed that there was an officer involved shooting last night south of Hamilton near the Skalkaho area. 

Hoffman said that a deputy had responded to a call at a residence located southeast of Hamilton and that the shooting occurred there. 

The adult male suspect is deceased and the Ravalli County Deputy involved was uninjured. 

The Montana Department of Criminal Investigation was on scene early this morning and is conducting the investigation. 

Hoffman said that more detailed information will be available later today."