GREAT FALLS — Austin Joseph Schneiderhan has been charged in Great Falls after he reportedly hit a police officer while driving a van and endangering people while speeding through a parking lot.
Police officers responded to a 911 call on Monday evening about a "loud banging sound" in the 1900 block of 11th Alley South. They saw a 2008 Chrysler van parked in a parking space in the alley facing north. In front of the van they saw a man holding a crowbar; officers recognized him from previous contacts, and knew that he was wanted for questioning regarding threatening statements he made earlier via phone to Great Falls police officers and also BNSF officers; the court documents say that he had told BNSF he was going to damage rail lines and trains, and there is a pending federal investigation into those threats. He also reportedly had said he hates police and made indirect threats to harm officers.
As officers pulled up behind the van, Schneiderhan backed his van toward the patrol car, and then turned away and drove in reverse down the alley. One officer got out of the patrol car and began yelling at Schneiderhan to stop and tried to break the driver's window to reach in and turn off the van. Schneiderhan continued driving in reverse, and then swerved, causing the van to hit the officer. The officer was not seriously injured.
Police then followed Schneiderhan into the parking lot of Target/Albertsons; Schneiderhan reportedly drove over a grassy embankment and then sped through the parking lot, endangering people and nearly causing damage to parked vehicles. He finally stopped in front of Albertsons and was arrested.
Schneiderhan has been charged with assault with a weapon (felony), criminal endangerment (felony), reckless driving (misdemeanor), and fleeing/eluding a peace officer (misdemeanor).