Ranch hand kills one, injures six at bar, then shoots deputy

Sunday, June 15, 2003

By Curt Woodward ~ The Associated Press

ENNIS, Mont. -- A ranch hand shot seven people, killing one, outside a bar early Saturday, then wounded a sheriff's deputy and led other officers on a 100 mph chase toward the Montana-Idaho border before being captured, police said.

Authorities said the gunman, who was shot at least once in the abdomen, kept shooting at officers until a patrol car slammed into his vehicle, knocking the gun from his hands.

It was not immediately clear when the gunman was shot, Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said. He was being treated at a Missoula hospital.

Madison County Attorney Robert Zenker identified the suspect as George H. Davis, 44. Zenker said Davis worked at an area ranch and had moved to Ennis, in southwestern Montana, only a week ago.

Zenker said the shootings began about 2:15 a.m., shortly after Davis was asked to leave the Silver Dollar Saloon in Ennis.

"He allegedly was intoxicated and acting obnoxious," Zenker said.

He said Davis parked his pickup truck across the street from the bar, walked to within five feet of a group of people standing outside and started shooting a handgun, killing James Roberts, 27, of Ennis. He emptied his clip, reloaded and fired again, Zenker added.

"At this time, there isn't any evidence of provocation," he said.

Five men and a woman, ranging in age from 19 to 24, were injured, Zenker said. Their conditions were not immediately available.

The gunman fled and authorities alerted law enforcement in Ravalli County to the northwest, where Davis has family, Zenker said.

A Ravalli County deputy spotted Davis's vehicle near Florence, about 215 miles northwest of Ennis, and pulled him over, said Donna Curran, a dispatcher with the state Highway Patrol.

The gunman got out of his car and shot at Deputy Bernie Allestad, who fired back but was hit in the shoulder, Hoffman said.

"The shootout continued for some time," Hoffman said, adding that the deputy was later taken to a Missoula hospital for observation and was expected to recover fully.

The gunman fled north on U.S. 93 and tried to run a Missoula County deputy off the road, said Capt. Mike Frellick of the Montana Highway Patrol.

The deputy and highway patrol Officer Jason Hildenstab chased the gunman's vehicle at speeds of more than 100 mph as it headed west on U.S. 12, toward the Idaho border, Frellick said.

About nine miles from the border, the gunman suddenly stopped his vehicle, causing Hildenstab's vehicle to slam into it and become disabled, Frellick said.

The gunman fled after exchanging gunfire with Deputy David Conway and Hildenstab, who rode with Conway as the pursuit continued west.

About a half mile east of the Idaho border, on a curvy stretch near the top of Lolo Pass, a spike strip across the road by an Idaho trooper deflated the tires on the gunman's vehicle, Frellick said.

With his vehicle perpendicular to the highway, the gunman leaned out the door and fired at the oncoming patrol car, Frellick said. "The Missoula County deputy's car T-bones the suspect's car, which causes him to lose his weapon," he said.

Davis was arrested by the Idaho trooper and Conway, who along with Hildenstab suffered minor injuries in the crash.

The Silver Dollar Saloon was blocked off with police cars Saturday, and deputies were interviewing witnesses at the Ennis town hall. The residents of the small town were in shock, Zenker said.

"It's pretty unusual to have a shooting, much less a killing, in Madison County," Zenker said.

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