by Travis Mateer
I’m writing this post on the eve of the coroner’s inquest attempting to get to the bottom of the shooting death of Johnny Lee Perry by Missoula County Sheriff deputies. While I’m curious to see what new information may emerge, an article from North Star with Shaun King offers some terrible perspective that I don’t think even remotely resembles reality.
Let’s begin with how the author thinks he’s going to be peeling away the layers of what’s going on here:
Sometimes, even amid the mess that is made by state-sanctioned violence or racist vigilantism, there is a neatness to the story that allows everyone who is exposed to it to be able to piece the puzzle together.
However, there are other stories of injustice that do not neatly fit into a convenient narrative or lead to a direct path of advocacy on behalf of the victim. Sometimes, a story is so distorted in its presentation, or so biased against the victim, that in order to adequately expose the foulness at hand, you have to peel back several layers to get to the root of how that person was wronged.
The story of the death of 31-year-old Missoula, Montana resident, Johnny Lee Perry, is one of those instances where the narrative does not line up as neatly as some of the more high-profile incidents of state-sanctioned violence against a Black life, mostly because the specifics of what led to the end of his life are not as cut-and-dry as other stories that raise our antennas.
The author, Donny Rose, concedes stories that raise one’s “antenna” are the ones that are more cut-and-dry. That won’t stop Rose from doing his best to weave something compelling together from what the family of JLP are telling him.
The problem is obvious from the beginning. Donny Rose is perplexed he’s just now hearing about this case, and that’s because a sister of JLP reached out to him on Instagram:
I became aware of Johnny Lee Perry’s story a couple of weeks ago after receiving a direct message from one of his sisters on Instagram. Initially, I thought her request for me to shed light on his death was more of a breaking news story, as I had not previously heard anything about him/his case. As it turns out, Johnny’s death that occurred just outside the city of Missoula, Montana happened last August, but there had been minimal coverage on it, outside of the local news, and their coverage was already based around a fixed narrative of Johnny’s role in his demise.
When Rose references “local news” he is DEFINITELY not referencing my citizen journalism, but mainstream news. I think this blindspot is a contributing factor to the crappiness of his article.
Regarding the official narrative, Rose makes it sound like JLP wasn’t seriously injured by the gunfire, but instead died while being transported to the hospital under mysterious conditions:
The police narrative around the death of Johnny Lee Perry is an abbreviated one, but goes as follows: Missoula-area cops were informed that a man was wielding a machete in a threatening manner, and went they went to intervene, the man turned the machete in their direction, forcing them to fire a shot at him after several “non-lethal” attempts to calm him went ignored. The man, Johnny Lee Perry, would later die in an area hospital despite being shot in the shoulder and bandaged on the spot.
Where this article goes off the rails, in my opinion, is allowing absurd speculation that a family member of Sean Stevenson could have been involved in setting up Johnny to be killed. Having interviewed Sean’s sisters, I find this idea to be ridiculous (emphasis mine)
Ms. White had received information that suggested that Johnny was lured to the mountains with the promise of drugs and alcohol, and allegedly by someone who was a family member of the person Johnny strangled at the homeless shelter. Johnny dealt with a meth and marijuana addiction, and the person that is alleged to have brought him to the homeless camp area in the mountains used his substance abuse as a temptation to bring him somewhere outside of his element.
The part of the story where JLP only sustained a flesh wound is news to me. If that’s true, then I would ALSO be wondering how he ended up dead in the hospital.
The next part of the story is where the police account and the eyewitness-to-mother account get conflated. Per the police account, Johnny was moving toward them with the machete, but per eyewitnesses account, as told to his mother, Johnny turned to run from the police. It was at that point that police figured Johnny to be a threat to other campers in the combine and fired a shot into his shoulder. After shooting him in the shoulder, the police narrative is that they immediately went to Johnny to render first aid. They also identified a cut in Johnny’s hand that they assumed came from him wielding the knife. Johnny would later be airlifted to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Leaving Ms. White to wonder, what happened between first aid being administered to a flesh wound, her son being airlifted for treatment and dying in the hospital.
“My question to them is how did he die from a shoulder wound? If you all administered first aid to him? I mean, it’s very rare. I know it happens, but it’s very rare that a person died from a gunshot wound to the shoulder. And then from the policing statement, they were not trying to kill him. Hence the wound to the shoulder. I’m saying that they know what they are doing.”
“They should know where the arteries and things are, even in the shoulder, even though sometimes the shots will be off, but what happened there?”
Ms. White told me that she was uncertain as to whether the gunshot wound Johnny received claimed his life or if it was the treatment [or lack thereof] he received on the way to the hospital, and when he arrived at the hospital. Either way, the police were not able to provide her with clear answers.
I think Ms. White meant to say DEPUTIES and not police because this incident was not within city limits, so police were not the responding executioners.
I’ll leave it there, for now. Thanks for reading.