NewsCrime and Courts


One victim dies in Missoula shooting; suspect charged with several felonies

Posted at 4:26 PM, Mar 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-15 21:17:45-04

MISSOULA – One of the victims injured in a series of shootings Thursday night and Friday morning has died, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

Johnathan Bertsch faces one count of deliberate homicide and three more counts of attempted deliberate homicide, all felonies, in the shootings.

Jonathon Bertsch (Courtesy: Missoula County Sheriff’s Office)

The Missoula Police Department received the initial call about reports of gunfire with three people shot near the Stone Creek Lodge at Expressway in Missoula shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday.

According to MCSO, a male victim, identified as Shelley Hayes died from his injuries. Julie and Casey Blanchard were also injured in the attack.

Bertsch, the suspect, fled the scene and led multiple agencies on a seven-hour manhunt along U.S. Highway 93 North.

Missoula units set up a perimeter and warned area residents to lock their doors as a suspect was at large.

Within moments, a second shooting was reported near the Evaro Bar and Casino where Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer located a vehicle matching the description.

Trooper Wade Palmer (Courtesy: Montana Highway Patrol)

Trooper Alex Hiday was the next officer on scene. Hiday found Palmer shot and still seat-belted in his patrol car. The suspect had fled the scene, according to the MHP.

Hiday and a Missoula Police Department officer transported Palmer to an ambulance at the intersection of Highway 93 and Interstate 90. He was taken to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, but has since been airlifted to Salt Lake City.

After an extensive manhunt, at approximately 6:15 a.m. the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office took Bertsch into custody without incident.

The Montana Department of Justice has taken over the investigation involving Trooper Palmer while the Missoula Police Department is investigating the shootings near Expressway.

The MHP said Friday afternoon that a GoFundMe page has been established for Palmer and his family. You can click here to donate.

(1st Report, 5:15 a.m.) Law enforcement from across Missoula County and even neighboring counties remain on the lookout for a suspect who was involved in two overnight shootouts.

Missoula police received the initial call shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday with reports of gunfire and that multiple people had been shot near the Stone Creek Lodge, at Expressway and Tanager Way.

Missoula Police Department spokesman Sgt. Travis Welsh said when the first officers rolled up they confirmed two people had been shot, and a third uninjured person who had made the 911 call.

From the beginning, Missoula units were looking for a Cadillac SUV with patrol cars fanning out and looking throughout the surrounding residential area and starting to block off traffic to preserve the crime scene and evidence on Expressway.

But after the initial police response at Expressway, the scene quickly changed with officers going as far north as Evaro and as far south as Lolo in attempts to locate the suspect. That’s when other agencies began to jump into the case.

“The jurisdiction changed in January. So that used to be county property. Now it’s actually city property,” Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett said. “But we have MHP, obviously the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Missoula Police Department, Airport Police and then we have multiple agencies in neighboring counties.”

That response ramped up quickly after the report of the second, officer-involved shooting on Evaro Hill, less than an hour later, forcing investigators to not only look for the shooter but cope with the additional stress.

“There’s two active investigations that are very fresh. There’s so many different moving parts. So I think with the different jurisdictions they’re still working on a lot of those details,” Bassett told MTN News.

For a time after the shooting, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, where the first victims were taken, was on a security lockdown as a precaution.

“It’s moving very fast, so we’re just really trying to take care of that number one priority of keeping the public safe,” Bassett said.