Way Beyond Stupid Billings Montana Police SWAT Team Raids Family’s Home Looking For Meth Lab That Didn’t Exist – Toss Grenade Into 12 Year Old Girl’s Bedroom, Leaving Her With 1st And 2nd Degree Burns On Harms And Down Left Side Of Her Body

October 13, 2012

BILLINGS, MONTANA – A 12-year-old girl suffered burns to one side of her body when a flash grenade went off next to her as a police SWAT team raided a West End home Tuesday morning.

“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” said the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”

Medical staff at the scene tended to the girl afterward and then her mother drove her to the hospital, where she was treated and released later that day.

A photo of the girl provided by Fasching to The Gazette shows red and black burns on her side.

Police Chief Rich St. John said the 6 a.m. raid at 2128 Custer Ave., was to execute a search warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation by the City-County Special Investigations Unit.

The grenade is commonly called a “flash-bang” and is used to disorient people with a bright flash, a loud bang and a concussive blast. It went off on the floor where the girl was sleeping. She was in her sister’s bedroom near the window the grenade came through, Fasching said.

A SWAT member attached it to a boomstick, a metal pole that detonates the grenade, and stuck it through the bedroom window. St. John said the grenade normally stays on the boomstick so it goes off in a controlled manner at a higher level.

However, the officer didn’t realize that there was a delay on the grenade when he tried to detonate it. He dropped it to move onto a new device, St. John said. The grenade fell to the floor and went off near the girl.

“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” St. John said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”

On Thursday, Fasching took her daughter back to the hospital to have her wounds treated.

She questioned why police would take such actions with children in the home and why it needed a SWAT team.

“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” she said. “They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would’ve checked, they would’ve known there’s not.”

She and her two daughters and her husband were home at the time of the raid. She said her husband, who suffers from congenital heart disease and liver failure, told officers he would open the front door as the raid began and was opening it as they knocked it down.

When the grenade went off in the room, it left a large bowl-shaped dent in the wall and “blew the nails out of the drywall,” Fasching said.

St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn’t know children were inside.

“The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” he said. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”

The decision to use a SWAT team was based on a detailed checklist the department uses when serving warrants.

Investigators consider dozens of items such as residents’ past criminal convictions, other criminal history, mental illness and previous interactions with law enforcement.

Each item is assigned a point value and if the total exceeds a certain threshold, SWAT is requested. Then a commander approves or rejects the request.

In Tuesday’s raid, the points exceeded the threshold and investigators called in SWAT.

“Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there,” St. John said. “The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time.”

But Fasching said the risk wasn’t there and the entry created, for her and her daughters, a sense of fear they can’t shake.

“I’m going to have to take them to counseling,” she said. “They’re never going to get over that.”

A claims process has already been started with the city. St. John said it’s not an overnight process, but it does determine if the Police Department needs to make restitution.

“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”

No arrests were made during the raid and no charges have been filed, although a police spokesman said afterward that some evidence was recovered during the search. St. John declined to release specifics of the drug case, citing the active investigation, but did say that “activity was significant enough where our drug unit requested a search warrant.”

Fasching said she’s considering legal action but, for now, is more concerned about her daughters.

“I would like to see whoever threw those grenades in my daughter’s room be reprimanded,” she said. “If anybody else did that it would be aggravated assault. I just want to see that the city is held accountable for what they did to my children.”

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Pedophile Former Glendive And Malta Montana Police Officer Taylon Bain Charged After Sex With At Least 4 Children – One A Special Olympics Volunteer

July 21, 2012

DAWSON COUNTY, MONTANA – Taylon Bain, a former Glendive and Malta police officer who once ran for Dawson County Sheriff, has been arrested on child molestation charges.

Bain, 27, faces four counts of sexual intercourse without consent, two counts of sexual abuse of children, and one count of solicitation of tampering with physical evidence, all felonies.

Bain appeared in Dawson County Justice Court on Tuesday and was bound over to District Court.

The arrest was the culmination of at least two years of investigation.

The charging documents identify four female victims between the ages of 13 and 16 between 2004 through 2009.

The documents allege that Bain saved pictures of his alleged victims on his computer and phone.

They say that reportedly met the girls through community groups he was involved in including two through 4-H, one through a dance class, and one through Special Olympics.

Bob Norbie, the president and CEO of Special Olympics Montana, said, “We are deeply saddened to learn that Taylon Bain has been charged with violating an underage volunteer of Special Olympics and others in the Glendive community. As a volunteer, Mr. Bain passed all required volunteer registration and screening processes. Although we have not been contacted by the authorities, Special Olympics will do anything it can to support the investigation into these serious allegations.”

Since leaving law enforcement several years ago Bain has worked as DJ and sound man and for oilfield service companies.

Bain is now held in the Dawson County Correctional Facility on $50,000 bond.

Court records involving another possible suspect are sealed.

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Hitchhiker Writing Memoir On Kindness Catches A Bullet In Montana Drive-By Shooting

June 11, 2012

MONTANA – A man who told authorities he was hitchhiking across the country and writing a memoir about kindness was injured in a seemingly random drive-by shooting near Montana’s booming Bakken oil patch.

Ray Dolin, 39, was shot in the arm as he approached a pickup Saturday evening thinking the driver was offering him a ride, said Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier.

The shooting took place about 3 miles west of the town of Glasgow, along rural U.S. Highway 2, a major route into and out of the oil patch.

A 52-year-old Washington man, Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, was arrested about four hours later near Culbertson. Authorities say the suspect was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They released no motive in the shooting.

“(Dolin) was sitting down to have a little lunch and this guy drives up. He thought he was going to give him a ride and as he approached the vehicle, the guy pulls out his weapon and shoots him. It’s as simple as that,” Meier said.

Danielson was apparently headed to Williston, N.D., for work tied to the oil boom, although Meier said he offered few details.

The shooting follows another random attack earlier this year in which a popular 43-year-old teacher from the oil patch town of Sidney, Mont., was allegedly kidnapped and killed by two Colorado men on their way to the Bakken.

As the men await trial for the alleged murder of teacher Sherry Arnold’s, the case has stoked worry that a once-quiet corner of Montana has been irreversibly altered by the oil boom. Crime rates across western North Dakota and eastern Montana have spiked as thousands of workers flock to a region that has become one of the top-oil producing areas of the country.

But Meier said Danielson’s quick arrest by deputies in Roosevelt County 100 miles away from the shooting shows law enforcement is keeping up with the changes.

“We’re still the wonderful people in Montana we’ve always been, and we’ll get through this,” Meier said. “Things are going to happen whether there’s the Bakken or not.”

Meier did not know if any words were exchanged between the alleged shooter and victim before Dolin was shot. He said they did not know one another.

Dolin was treated at Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital in Glasgow. A nurse declined to accept a message for him, and it was unclear if he was still being treated Monday.

Dolin had told sheriff’s officials that he was writing a memoir titled “Kindness in America.” His father, Melvin Dolin, declined to speak about his son’s plans, saying he had been working on his photography.

“I’d rather you eventually get that story from him. He had some ideas about that,” he said of the memoir.

His son had left the home in Julian, W. Va., last week bound for Washington state, said Melvin Dolin. He took a bus to the edge of Montana and intended to work his way to Washington from there, the father said.

“He was on the way across the country taking pictures,” Melvin Dolin said, adding that his son’s travel plans had been flexible. “He was going to make up his mind as he travelled along. But he didn’t get that far.”

Glasgow is about 120 miles west of the Montana-North Dakota border. Still dominated by agriculture, the town of about 3,000 residents is increasingly feeling the effects of the oil boom to the east. In January, a Florida man working in the oil patch allegedly ran over a fellow worker along Highway 2 near the town where Danielson was arrested.

Danielson was jailed in Roosevelt County on suspicion of felony assault with a weapon and driving under the influence. He was due to make an initial court appearance Monday, and authorities said he has asked for an attorney.

Danielson has criminal convictions in King County, Wash., for assault, unlawful possession of a firearm, obstruction of law enforcement and exhibiting or carrying a weapon with intent to intimidate. Records show he was sentenced in 2005 to 8 months in jail on the charges.

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University Of Montana At Missoula, Missoula Police, And County Attorney’s Office Under Investigation By Fed For Mishandling As Many As 80 Sexual Assault Complaints

May 2, 2012

MISSOULA, MONTANA – The U.S. Justice Department has launched a probe into allegations that up to 80 complaints of sexual assault over three years were not investigated thoroughly in a college town in Montana.

The investigation will look into sexual assault investigations at the University of Montana at Missoula, the Missoula Police Department and Missoula County Attorney’s Office.

“Late last year, the Department became aware of serious concerns that alleged sexual assaults of women, including but not limited to students at the University of Montana, were not being investigated in a prompt and adequate fashion,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s civil rights division said at news conference Tuesday.

“Our primary focus is not the number of reported allegations of sexual assault; rather, our focus is on the response,” he added.

Fred Van Valkenburg, Missoula County chief prosecutor, vehemently defended his office and the police officers involved in the investigations.

“We adamantly deny that we have done any such thing and we are deeply disturbed with the allegation that we have done so,” he said, according to the Missoulian newspaper. “While we have no choice, given the heavy hand of the federal government, but to cooperate with this investigation… I think it is an overreach by the federal government.”

The 80 reported cases occurred in a three-year period. A rash of sexual assault complaints at the University of Montana are also under investigation. At least two of the allegations are said to involve football players on the University of Montana Grizzlies football team.

Missoula, a city of about 67,000 people in western Montana, is tied to the school in many ways. The University of Montana is the top employer in the city.

In December, the University of Montana initiated its own investigation after allegations of a female being gang-raped and possibly drugged by other students. The university hired Montana Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz to investigate and she looked into nine alleged sexual assaults from September 2010 through December.

Barz wrote in her report that the university has “a problem of sexual assault on and off campus.”

Perez said there has been at least 11 allegations of sexual assault involving students in the last 18 months.

“As to the University, we are investigating whether it responds promptly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campus and has taken the necessary steps to combat sexual violence,” Perez said.

At least two of the allegations have involved players at the University of Montana Grizzlies football team, the Missoulian reported.

After the allegations last year, the school’s football coach and athletic director were dismissed, the paper reported.

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LOL: Montana Chief Federal Judge Richard Cebull “Sorry” About Forwarding Hilarious Racist eMail Aimed At President Obama

March 1, 2012

MONTANA – Montana’s chief federal judge has offered his apologies for forwarding a racist e-mail aimed at President Barack Obama. Liberal advocacy groups demanded that U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull resign.

Cebull, in an interview Wednesday with the Billings Gazette newspaper, offered his regrets for forwarding the e-mail, saying it was “a hard lesson to learn.”

“To say it’s inappropriate and stupid is an extreme understatement,” Cebull said in courthouse chambers on Wednesday, according to the newspaper. “There is no doubt it’s racist. It wasn’t forwarded for that purpose. If anything, it was political.”

The Billings-based judge was named to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2001. He has been chief judge since 2008, overseeing two other full-time district judges, three senior or part-time judges and five magistrates. His chambers did not return a call from CNN for comment.

Cebull did not write the offensive material, but admitted forwarding the February 20 message to a few friends after it was sent to him by his brother. The Great Falls Tribune newspaper was given a copy and reported the message went:

“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

A little boy said to his mother, ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!'”

Obama is of mixed race.

Cebull said in the interview his conduct in court over many years has shown he is not a racist, but he admitted the public got that impression from the e-mail. “And I don’t blame them,” he added.

The judge also separately told the Great Falls Tribune, “The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan. I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

Some legal organizations said the apology was not enough.

“If he has any respect for his office and for ideals of equality and human dignity on which our country was founded, Judge Cebull will step down today,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of the left-leaning nonprofit Common Cause. “The message he has acknowledged circulating demonstrates a lack of judicial temperament that ought to disqualify him from further service.”

It’s rare and generally very difficult to force federal judges from office. They receive tenure, and the Constitution guarantees they can remain on the bench “during good behavior.”

Standards warranting removal are not clear, beyond a violation of civil or criminal law. Congress would have to initiate impeachment proceedings, but the few judges to face that have usually resigned before those proceedings went far.

There is no indication the judge in Montana would be subjected to either option.

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Montana Judge Robert E. Lee, Chosen To Preside Over DUI Court, Charged With Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs

April 8, 2011

BUTTE, MONTANA – A Montana justice of the peace set to preside over a DUI court later this year has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

An assistant attorney general filed the misdemeanor DUI charge Thursday against Robert E. Lee.

He’s charged with driving to the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse on Nov. 13 while under the influence of methadone. The synthetic narcotic is used to relieve pain or prevent withdrawal from drug addiction.

Lee was to perform a wedding that morning.

A blood test confirmed the presence of methadone.

Lee says he does not take drugs and he is confident he will be vindicated.

Lee says he is scheduled in October to rotate in as the presiding judge for the county’s new DUI court.

A Montana justice of the peace recently appointed to help oversee a new DUI court has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

An assistant attorney general filed the misdemeanor DUI charge Thursday against Robert E. Lee, a retired Butte police officer.

Lee is charged with driving to the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse on Nov. 13 while under the influence of methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to relieve pain or prevent withdrawal symptoms from drug addiction.

He was knocking on the window of the police station that Saturday morning asking officers to let him into the courthouse because he had a wedding to perform, police said. Lee appeared confused and under the influence of alcohol or drugs, officers said.

The officers said Lee told them he drove to the courthouse and police found his vehicle parked in a handicapped zone. Court records said his driver’s license and some credit cards were found on the ground outside the courthouse.

Lee performed poorly on a field sobriety test, police said. A blood test confirmed the presence of methadone.

Lee told officers he was on lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication. His wife told investigators that Lee was taking lorazepam to get off methadone.

Officers searched Lee’s vehicle and found a methadone tablet. At his house, officers were shown an empty bottle of methadone. The 60-tablet prescription had been filled nine days earlier.

Lee told KXLF-TV he was confident he would be vindicated. He also said he believed he would be allowed to remain on the bench, since the charge was a misdemeanor.

It’s not clear why he was charged five months after the reported violation. The county attorney denied a records request from The Montana Standard in December based on an item on the police dispatch log. County commissioners asked the state to help prosecute the case late last month.

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Veteran Billings Montana Police Officer Curtis Eckhardt Arrested, Charged, And Suspended After Drunken Piss In Public Park At Concert. Veteran Officer Steve Swanson Hospitalized And Under Investigation After Drunken Wreck

June 1, 2010

BILLINGS, MONTANA – Two Billings police officers face an uncertain future after one was arrested for urinating in public during a concert at MetraPark and another crashed his car, possibly while drunk. Both incidents took place over the weekend.

Police Chief Rich St. John said Tuesday morning that Officer Curtis Eckhardt is on paid administrative leave after he was arrested Friday night by Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputies for urinating in public in the arena at MetraPark. Eckhardt, 51, was attending a concert by Styx, Foreigner and Kansas.

According to a sheriff’s report, Eckhardt was detained by MetraPark security after ushers saw him with his genitalia exposed and “urinating among the crowd in the arena area.” Sheriff’s deputies arrived at about 11:05 p.m. and took Eckhardt into custody.

He was taken to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility and was released after receiving a citation for disorderly conduct.

St. John said Eckhardt was intoxicated but cooperative with sheriff’s deputies. St. John said someone complained to ushers about Eckhardt’s behavior, and the ushers then called security and the sheriff’s office.

“He is on administrative leave pending the disposition of this and the internal affairs investigation,” St. John said. “There is no indication that he caused any problems for the deputies.”

St. John said Deputy Police Chief Tim O’Connell will investigate the incident. Eckhardt has been with the department for almost 22 years and works as a patrolman.

Just before 11 p.m. Saturday night, Officer Steve Swanson crashed his personal car in the 3100 block of Hillcrest Road. According to information from St. John, Swanson was heading south on the road and going around a bend when his right tires went off the road. Swanson overcorrected, crossed the road and went into the ditch on the other side. The car hit the ditch hard and went end over end before it rolled on its side, eventually landing on the passenger side.

Swanson wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and both speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, St. John said. Swanson was taken to the hospital with serious injuries and is still in the hospital with broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a damaged spleen, St. John said.

“He’s extremely fortunate to not have been ejected and not seriously injured or killed,” St. John said.

The Montana Highway Patrol responded to the crash and is investigating. The MHP took a blood sample from Swanson but haven’t issued any citations yet, St. John said. The Police Department has begun an investigation but won’t take any action against Swanson until his condition improves and the MHP can determine what happened in the crash, St. John said.

Swanson is a 13-year veteran currently assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Offender Fugitive Task Force. He has served on the city’s SWAT team.

St. John said he was extremely disappointed in the behavior of both officers.

“We work very hard to gain the public’s trust and this knocks us backward,” he said. “To have our officers involved in such shameful activity is not only a violation of the public’s trust but a complete dishonor to this department and the officers who uphold the integrity and honor that goes along with the badge.”

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