Violent Felonies Don’t Contribute to Vibrant Atmosphere

by William Skink

In the predawn hours two young men robbed a casino, kidnapped a family, led law enforcement on a high speed chase through downtown, fired shots, then somehow eluded authorities and are currently, as of ten this morning, at large, presumed armed and dangerous.

Welcome to Memorial Day Weekend!

Since details are still emerging, I’d take the above sequence of events with a grain of salt. The latest account of events is two hours old. From the link:

Police in Missoula are searching for two men who reportedly robbed a Missoula casino, took a Washington family hostage and fired shots at pursuing officers before finally freeing the hostages and fleeing on foot.

Police say the men – one black and one white or possibly Hispanic – robbed Deano’s Casino at about 3:30 a.m. Friday then forced the family into their vehicle and sped through downtown Missoula. It is unknown at this time where in Washington the family was from.

Two children and their grandmother were released in Missoula while the vehicle and the children’s’ parents were discovered at about 5:30 a.m. about 15 highway miles away near Evaro Hill, northwest of Missoula.

The suspects, who are in their early to mid-20s, fled on foot. They reportedly have a tan pillow case containing three handguns with them.

Speeding through downtown Missoula after committing multiple felonies will most likely ding the vibrant atmosphere down a few points, but luckily it was early enough that not many people would have been around, unlike this incident, which happened in the middle of the day a few months ago:

According to the affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Shawn Thomas, Burrafato was driving recklessly in downtown around 2 p.m. Thursday, prompting multiple 9-1-1 calls reporting an impaired driver.

Minutes before the head-on collision, the woman struck two other cars near the intersection of Pine Street and Higgins Avenue.

“The driver of the first vehicle reported that after the white car hit him from behind, he got out and approached the female driver, who cursed at him,” the affidavit stated. “She then backed up, hit a second car, then pulled forward again, striking the first car, before driving from the scene at a high rate of speed.”

Those drivers reported Burrafato appeared to be intoxicated, and that she nearly hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk when she sped away.

When Missoula police responded, officers saw the 2000 Chevrolet Malibu almost collide with a school bus before turning north onto Orange Street. Burrafato allegedly didn’t stop after seeing lights and sirens and instead sped up – blowing through two stop signs and nearly striking yet another vehicle.

She then allegedly turned the wrong way on Main Street and collided with a Jeep after that driver attempted to swerve to avoid hitting her. The Chevy then careened into a parked, unoccupied Suburban. The driver of the Jeep had his two minor children in the vehicle.

There is no word yet if drugs or alcohol was involved in the armed robbery/kidnapping/attempted homicide of law enforcement incident earlier this morning, but I would be shocked if drugs weren’t a factor. They certainly were a factor in the stabbing/murder incident that happened a few months before the Carol Ann Burrafato drunken rampage:

According to documents filed by Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst and Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks, a female victim was in the Fresh Market parking lot on South Reserve Street on Monday when she spotted Price on the way back to her car. When she got into her car, Price was standing at the door, and began stabbing her in the stomach with a knife. Price then drove off in his dark colored Honda.

Another woman came to help the victim, and took a picture of Price’s vehicle. The victim was taken to Community Medical Center and survived her injuries. Police later recovered a fixed blade Buck knife at the scene of the stabbing.

That same day, Lonette Keehner was working as a housekeeper at the Super 8 Motel near the Missoula Fresh Market. At around 12:50 p.m., police were called to the hotel, where they found Keehner’s body face down in one of the rooms. Witnesses at the scene were able to identify McKnight from her picture in a photo lineup.

The most dangerous drugs–meth, opiates and alcohol–continue to destroy lives at an epidemic pace, despite a decades-long war against them (the illegal ones, not alcohol, which costs the state of Montana hundreds of millions of dollars a year).

While Steve Bullock talks about access to streams in a gotcha political jab against Gianforte, I’d like to hear what the Governor’s plan is to increase access to treatment. Because access to treatment in Montana is fucking terrible, and it’s contributing to the jail crisis and the crisis with Child and Family Services. Just yesterday there was a story about authorities searching for two women who routinely locked children in a basement without food, water or a bathroom:

Officials allege Crystal Mears and Amy Newman locked up three of the four children, ages 9, 11 and 12, in the basement for extended periods of time without lights and food, and just a bucket for a toilet.

Detective Karen Webster, of the Kalispell Police Department, investigated and found locks on the doors to the basement, including padlocks and zip-ties.

According to an affidavit, the door leading out of the basement was locked. The basement windows were boarded up and not egressed. There was no furniture except for one small mattress for each child. There was no light except through a crack in a window. No smoke alarms were present.

Mears and Newman were interviewed, and each reportedly admitted to locking the children in the basement every night. Court documents state Newman said she and Mears kept keys to the locks.

We have had reports on jail overcrowding and a commission on the crisis with Child Family Services. Now, how about some action?

Sorry, all that will have to wait until after November. Because politics.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Violent Felonies Don’t Contribute to Vibrant Atmosphere

  1. I changed the first paragraph, which initially stated it was the Wolf Point Casino that was robbed. thanks for the catch, @Lgpguin.

  2. JC says:

    Yeah, this whole early morning chase scene really sucks. The Deano’s Casino holdup was just a few blocks away from where my kid was at work at the same time at a roadside business. Now it’s up in the woods just a few miles away from me, and no media updates. Scanners went dead after police discovered the jackers had a scanner, too. Probably shifted comm over to a secure fed channel. Good plot material, eh? The jackers probably headed cross country through the woods, so they could terrorize just about anybody in the vicinity.

    And I’m really glad the city/county are hard at work building soccer fields out at the Fort, planning new fairgrounds for the sheep/cow/carny shows, helping Carmike with an imax theater, tearing down old buildings and remediating abandoned hazardous materials so transnational corporations can build new hotels and ritzy condos, blowing $4 mil on a bike/ped overpass on Reserve (and spending an extra $mil to make sure it can be lifted to let the megaloads from transnational oil barons through) that will serve less people than need mental health/addiction treatment daily in Missoula… blah… blah… blah.

    Meantime, the mental health unit at the providence center keeps the revolving door going on its 10/20 day holds, drugging people up just enough for them to say the right thing so they can be released back on the street because there’s nowhere else for them to go, except for a last-chance quick chemical lobotomy at the state hospital in Warm Springs, and a life-long prescription to haldol (good until it induces brain cancer).

    It’s no wonder that most of the effective treatment options in the state are done through Elkhorn, Passages, Nexus and Watch’s 6-9 month programs only accessible via a felony with time in the state pen. Sometimes I wish certain people would commit nonviolent felonies so they can get the treatment they need instead of offing themselves or making life hell for others.

    Lack of sleep does wonders for one’s disposition. I should get my cat declawed.

  3. Greg Strandberg says:

    I’d like to point out that Missoula representative Kim Dudik is big on raising awareness for human trafficking and child abuse issues. Just this weekend, today and tomorrow, there are events at UM and a 5-K race.

  4. JC says:

    This will make you think twice before calling 911 or listening to their advice:

    [Missoula County Sheriff TJ] McDermott said the [kidnapped] family, which is from Washington, was getting gas at the travel plaza and saw the robbery. When they left they called 911, and were asked to pull over and wait for an officer to come. Cpt. Tony Rio said the family believed the suspects already had driven away and they were safe, but that after they pulled over their doors were pulled open and the men took the occupants hostage in their SUV.

    Can you say “Lawsuit?”

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