Officers awarded for gunman reaction

By: 
KATHLEEN GILLULY
Outlook managing editor
Outlook photo by Kathleen Gilluly. From the left is Captain Mark Guy, Officer Jeremiah Johnson, Communications Officer Brenda Sell, Mayor Mark Mace and Laurel Police Chief Rick Musson. Guy, Johnson and Sell were honored at Tuesday’s city council meeting for their actions during an active shooter situation in Laurel in March.
Outlook photo by Kathleen Gilluly. From the left is Captain Mark Guy, Officer Jeremiah Johnson, Communications Officer Brenda Sell, Mayor Mark Mace and Laurel Police Chief Rick Musson. Guy, Johnson and Sell were honored at Tuesday’s city council meeting for their actions during an active shooter situation in Laurel in March.

Three members of the Laurel Police Department were presented commendations at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Captain Mark Guy and Officer Jeremiah Johnson received the LPD Medal of Valor Award and the Combat Action Award, respectively, for their handling of an active shooter situation March 27, at just after 2:30 a.m. on the 400 block of Roundhouse. Communications Officer Brenda Sell received a Commendation for Merit Award for her efforts during the same incident.

Officer Johnson was the first on the scene of what had been reported as fireworks. Upon his arrival he discovered there was a family disturbance in progress and shots were being fired.

“Officer Johnson responded toward the location where the shots were being fired and discovered a female screaming and more shots being fired,” Captain Guy wrote in recommending the award for Officer Johnson. “Officer Johnson took a cover position and attempted to convince the suspect to come out of the residence. The suspect threatened Officer Johnson numerous times with death and continued firing randomly,” the recommendation continues, describing how the suspect continued shooting at the Laurel officer and at Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Trevor Chase who had arrived to provide backup.

“Officer Johnson’s conduct was beyond professional. He remained calm while under fire and kept the situation contained. He exhibited common sense and a cool head that led to the peaceful and successful resolution of the suspect giving up … Officer Johnson reflected great credit upon himself and the Laurel Police Department. He placed his own life in danger to serve the public. His actions were demonstrative of his pride and professionalism,” the recommendation concludes.

Chief Rick Musson recommended Captain Guy for the Medal of Valor Award. He wrote that after arriving on scene Captain Guy assumed command, requested Chief Musson, all off duty officers, police reserves, a crisis negotiator and the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s tactical team respond before he attempted to make contact with the suspect. 

When Chief Musson arrived, Captain Guy informed him that MHP Trooper Mees who had arrived to provide backup was not answering his radio. 

“Fearing that Trooper Mees was pinned down by gunfire or even wounded, Captain Guy decided to approach the suspect’s residence from the east … As they approached they were able to make verbal contact with Trooper Mees; he advised them them that he was alright but did not have a portable radio,” wrote the Chief. “At that time the male suspect came out of the house and yelled that he wanted to speak to someone.” After asking if the Captain was a veteran, the suspect decided to speak to him. The suspect told the Captain that he had two pistols, night vision googles, a hand grenade and a rifle. He also said he planned to kill himself. Then he said he was going to shoot at officers on the scene who he thought were sneaking up on him. “Things intensified as he said that he was coming out and that the police would have to shoot him. Captain Guy was able to settle him down and he suddenly said he was coming out. The suspect came out with his hands up and was arrested without incident. Captain Guy is to be commended for his action under extreme stress and putting the lives of others over his,” the Chief wrote wrapping up the recommendation.

Communications Officer Brenda Sell displayed extreme professionalism during the early morning incident. Not only did she field calls coordinating all the agencies involved, but she took numerous 911 calls related to the incident as well as several calls that were unrelated, Chief Musson said. In the span of an hour and a half, she monitored and logged 97 radio transmissions, made and received 44 phone calls and took 14 911 complaints.

Troopers Chase and Bruusema were also recognized for their contribution to the arrest at Tuesday’s meeting. During the incident, Trooper Chase narrowly missed injury. A bullet fired by the suspect grazed his boot. 

The suspect, Charles Williams, was charged with five counts of felony assault with a weapon and two counts of felony criminal endangerment. After his arrest, law enforcement recovered 77 spent shell casings.

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