An investigation into the case of a handgun that was brought to Willard Alternative High School this week helped authorities recover another handgun in West Riverside, as well as a stolen car, according to the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.

Two 15-year-old Hellgate High School students face several misdemeanor charges in connection with the stolen gun, and possible felony charges from the Missoula Police Department for allegedly taking the car, Sheriff's Detective Jason Johnson said Thursday.

When a handgun surfaced Monday at Willard, authorities already had been investigating the Nov. 21 theft of a Toyota Corolla from the Hellgate High School parking lot, as well as a report from West Riverside about a stolen gun, he said. The victim in that case said he saw two young men fleeing in a Toyota Corolla.

Authorities quickly determined that the gun at Willard was not the same gun, Johnson said. However, the investigation into the Willard case led sheriff's detectives to a house in West Riverside.

There, juveniles confessed to stealing the car and the handgun. The gun was in the waistband of one boy's pants, while the car was found in an alley off Toole Avenue, Johnson said.

"Without a doubt, the proactive efforts of our detectives made Missoula County a safer place," he said.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, or on


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