By Trying To Help The Flower Girl I Came To Sympathize With The Hitman

by Travis Mateer

REPOSTED with an UPDATE below.

On June 29th, at 8:22pm, I called 911 to report something suspicious. If I had been just a tourist on a summertime stroll with my girlfriend in downtown Missoula, the presence of an 8 year old girl selling roses for $5 dollars a pop wouldn’t have seemed all that unusual. But I’m not a tourist, and neither was the woman I was enjoying the evening with.

The little girl selling roses approached us asking to support her trip to Disney Land. The man who seemed to be her dad lurked off to the side, not too far away. Since both of us have experience working with vulnerable populations and identifying red flags, we felt something was off.

I had let the little girl know we would possibly be back, since I didn’t have any cash on me. It only took a glance and a few words to establish what had to be done. We walked around the block, I got some money, and we made our second approach with a plan of me talking to the guy, her talking to the girl.

She asked the girl about the man being her dad and didn’t get a response. Instead the little girl looked down and away. When asked if they were close to raising all the funds for her trip the little girl said they were close. Then, surprisingly, the little girl asked her, looking scared: “They won’t make you go on rides there, will they?”

While that conversation was happening, I was getting a feel for the man who seemed to be the father. I told him about the general safety of Missoula’s downtown streets, explaining they were NOT all that safe at night. I discussed the drug scene and made a mental note of the guy’s VERY red and glassy eyes. When I asked him about Cannabis being legal, he gave me a blank stare, so I asked him if he was from Montana and he said no, just passing through. The transitory nature of this “family’s” presence was a big red flag for me.

It’s at this point in the story where a choice had to be made. Remain as bystanders and keep walking? Or call the authorities? With a glance we knew what we were going to do, because we both felt confident something wasn’t right. But when I made the 911 call, what I described as red flags was directly contested by 911 dispatch.

Before continuing, it’s important to note that we are told if you see something, say something. Regarding the peddling of roses on the street, this Reddit thread has LOTS of people saying something isn’t right about this. Here’s an example of the comments:

Since I felt our concerns weren’t being taken seriously, myself and several other patrons of the restaurant sprang into action, but it was too late. The man and the girl had disappeared down the alley.

Seeing something and NOT being taken seriously isn’t fun, so I imagine the hitman (Nathan Jacobsen) feels my pain. Why? Because when HE called the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center to report his supposed direct knowledge that Sheriff Mike Toth and David Barsotti are involved in gun running, the response from the NTOC was similarly dismissive.

Unlike this alleged interaction between the hitman and the NTOC, which I’m hearing about second hand from a credible source, my situation had something miraculous happen. I GOT AN APOLOGY!

Maybe it was because I did some investigative groundwork the following day to get surveillance footage preserved, or maybe it was because I sent an email to County Commissioners and a contact at the Missoula police department. Regardless, it was nice to have someone in a supervisory role tell me the way dispatch handled my call was NOT appropriate.

After the apology I got the best indication yet this call was finally being taken seriously when the FBI called. Well, that’s how it showed up on my phone, but the guy on the other end of the line was Detective Guy Baker. Now the REAL action was about to begin, right?

The follow up call came a few days later, and I guess it was intended to put my concerns to rest. I was told by Detective Baker that a vigorous 6-8 hour investigation revealed the man was indeed a Russian out-of-stater traveling with his “family” from western Washington. There were two boys and a woman who appeared to be the “mother”. This family’s behavior had caused another bystander to call 911 two days after I did, and this concerned citizen took pictures, something Guy Baker suggested I could have done to make his job easier.

At the end of the day those red flags that had caused our concern were chalked up to “cultural differences”, so I guess it must be a Russian thing to avoid answering direct questions about familial ties and to express fear about the goal of your fundraising efforts. Thankfully history shows us the Russian character is strong and perseveres beyond adversity.

As for the hitman, maybe he should take a page from my book and email our County Commissioners about why he thinks Sheriff Toth is running guns with David Barsotti. Taking that step seemed to be an important factor in producing a tangible result.

Thanks for reading!


I temporarily removed this post at someone’s request, but those conditions no longer seem to apply, considering the hitman has resurfaced and is back on that true crime podcast talking about how he’s NOT SUPPOSED TO BE TALKING ABOUT the fact he’s talked to the FBI.

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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3 Responses to By Trying To Help The Flower Girl I Came To Sympathize With The Hitman

  1. John Kevin Hunt says:

    1. GOOD ON YOU for your proper and commendable actions!

    2. The 911 dispatcher’s treatment of your call is grounds for discipline ranging from reprimand, to suspension, to dismissal, in most places. While I don’t wish employment problems on any public employee, let’s hope that, at minimum, the dispatcher received a written reprimand.

    3. By documenting and publishing this episode, you may not only make people “woke” about child trafficking and related issues, but also may have enumerated evidence that would benefit a future plaintiff suing the police agency for inept handling of a 911 call.

    4. Re this: “… I guess it must be a Russian thing to avoid answering direct questions about familial ties and to express fear about the goal of your fundraising efforts. Thankfully history shows us the Russian character is strong and perseveres beyond adversity. …” —

    The tenacity and resilience of the Russian character is, I think, generally accepted as almost being axiomatic, though I’m not so sure that the reticence to discuss family information with strangers is a unique Russian cultural trait.

    Roma also are well-represented among the nomadic (an adjective not synonymous with “transient” — whether the latter term is used as a verb or as a noun) child-fronting flower vendors working sidewalks, event parking lots, etc. Both groups experience significant invidious discrimination and Roma have been continuously persecuted, and without a homeland, for centuries; Roma were specifically designated for genocide as part of Hitler’s “final solution.” Stereotypes of Roma as deceptive, shifty, dishonest, larcenous, roaming, swindling outlaws _ a stereotype that grossly caricaturizes and defames Roma (including via continued use of the pejorative “Gypsy”) — springs from roots similar to those giving rise to anti-Semitism.

    5. Nothing about which I’ve ranted in the preceding paragraph in any way vitiates the clear propriety of what you two did (utilizing a technique employed by experienced professionals, to boot). Thanks for that and for providing important and valuable information to those who choose to ingest it!

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