by Travis Mateer
What do you see in this picture? Can you see that there’s been a fire, and that the tree has been singed and leaves burned? Can you see the ashes? More importantly, do you see any reason WHY this camp site started on fire?
Let me back up.
Since my work-shift didn’t start until 11, I realized I had time last Wednesday morning to attend the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, but I just BARELY made it to provide public comment. Judging by the smile, I think at least one person was happy to see me!
After huffing and puffing through my public reminder that the Headwaters Foundation is sitting on 100 million dollars of loot from the sale of Community Medical Center, and that this money is SUPPOSED to benefit our community, I exited chambers and hopped back on my bike for a ride down the Kim Williams trail to see what I could see.
The camping sites visible from the trail appear scattered, in groupings of two to three tents, and so far the environmental impacts appear less intense than what was happening at the Russell bridge and Lion’s Park locations.
Impact to the land is NOT what I ended up discovering on my ride. Instead, after a conversation with several campers, I developed a theory for what may have happened to the burned-out camp site pictured above and, more importantly, WHO might be responsible.
A burned-out campsite pales to the claims I heard from several campers that THREE overdoses have occurred in the area in just the past week, with at least one of them being fatal. Are these the medical emergencies Jill Bonny referenced?
While this is bad, it’s what I heard next that really upsets me. I was describing my effort to remove the “meth shack” and as I described the builder, Todd Spence, one of the guys I was talking to lit up with recognition. “That’s the guy!” he said, and the other camper seemed to immediately know who he was referring to.
Turns out there’s a theory amongst some of the urban campers that Todd Spence is dispersing weed laced with Fentanyl, and he’s doing so knowingly. Could this be true?
After this conversation, I quickly returned downtown and was able to catch one of the fire guys wrapping up his presentation to Council about money, so I put the ODs on his radar, then I went over to the police station and was told the Captain of the street crime unit would be in the following day, at 2pm. Why wasn’t he available on a Wednesday? Because they were all in “a training”.
Not content to sit idly by, I biked by the Russell bridge area the following morning to see if a certain colored tent was there, and it was! I also took note of the new piece of “art” on display:
After documenting my specific concerns with 911 dispatch, and talking to the responding officer (and watching the individual of concern exit his _____ colored tent), I continued my neighborhood bike ride and struck up a conversation with two people walking their pups. I explained why I was biking around, referencing the urban camp, and they responded with a worried nod toward a property I had just biked by.
Incidentally, this property had been referenced at the neighborhood meeting I recently attended at Free Cycles by an older woman with a disabled son who lives near this spot. According to her, A LOT of sketchy activity is going on at this location.
I was told by the two dog-walkers to ask local businesses in the area about their concerns, so I did some canvassing with my business cards, but didn’t hear anything specific, and the morning was getting close to the working hour, so switched out my sandals for work shoes.
After my shift was over I had a handful of conversations, but the one I’ll mention here is the one I had with the Captain of the street crimes unit. Are they aware of claims Spence is peddling dirty Fentanyl weed? They are, but no one has apparently given them first hand claims. Maybe because they’re dead?
No, I didn’t make that smart-ass comment, but I DID express some specific frustration about the lost opportunity the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office had last September when Todd Spence assaulted TWO Department of Transportation staff, but only received ONE misdemeanor assault charge after infiltrating a volunteer homeless camp clean-up at Reserve Street.
Here’s Spence’s mugshot from that arrest so you can see who we’re talking about:
Why are the PROTECT and SERVE badges so seemingly incapable of dealing with this dangerous piece of human trash? Urban campers are being directly threatened, while the Department of Transportation has been forced to hire private security to protect their staff from Todd’s retaliation against them, since he knows they have stored some of his personal belongings from Reserve Street clean-ups at their facility on Broadway.
I’m doing my best to resist a theory that’s developing in my brain about Todd Spence and the unfathomable leniency he’s experienced because there IS a way to fathom it, but it’s dark, so I think I’ll save it for another day.
While I try to confirm the ODs with my meager resources, I’m ALSO going to show people on the street Todd’s mugshot. I got a nice response on Saturday when I showed the image to some rough looking travelers. A brief discussion ensued about accidents, and how they can happen at any time. Is that what it’s going to take?
Thanks for reading!