Hopscotch squares are spray-painted in the middle of one block of Blaine Street near Rose Park; another block down, however, newer spray paint marks seven dots on the curb across from the home where a 49-year-old person was killed in a confrontation with Missoula Police officers Sunday morning.
On Monday, authorities identified the suspect killed in the officer-involved shooting as Jenessa Cooper. Officers were called to the home on the 600 block of Blaine Street for a reported firearm-related disturbance, with information that shots had been fired inside the home, according to a Sunday press release from Missoula Police. As they arrived, “shots were fired,” the release states. Cooper was killed at the scene.
“The whole situation was fairly misunderstood,” said Sara, who answered the door at the home on Monday. Sara declined to provide a last name. “The person who got shot was going through a really hard time with it.”
When asked what was meant by “it,” Sara said, “The death of a loved one,” and declined further comment.
The Montana Sexual and Violent Offender Registry lists a Saraphinn Michelle Herbert, 26, living at the address where Sunday’s shooting took place. Herbert was convicted of sexual assault in Oregon in 2013.
Laurie Rollin, whose husband’s family has had their home across the street for nearly 80 years, said the neighborhood has always been quiet and felt safe — the kind of place where kids would jump hopscotch in the middle of the street.
Rollin was reading on her couch Sunday morning around 8:30 when she heard a quick burst. Her mind didn’t register the noise as a rapid succession of gunfire; she instead thought a car had collided with something outside.
Looking out the window, she saw police officers leaning against a pickup truck aiming their firearms at the front door across the street.
“We got away from the windows,” she said, “because we were definitely in the line of fire.”
It’s unclear from information released so far if Cooper opened fire at the officers who came to the home, but the spray-painted dots across the street from Cooper’s home seem to indicate such a trajectory as described by people who saw the incident.
Rollin didn’t see much, but on the next block, Steve Snow was hiding behind one of the pillars holding up his front porch awning as the events unfolded. He was working near the back of the house and came up to peek around the corner after he heard the burst of noise he recognized as gunfire.
Snow said he watched people come out of the home on a command from police, and sit outside. He heard a woman screaming. Police eventually entered the home from three different directions, he said, estimating that the whole event was over in about an hour.
It’s not the first time many of the neighbors have spotted police activity at the home. Snow said he was standing in the park across the street in late October when two people were in the middle of a domestic dispute that spilled onto the front lawn. Someone else in the park called police to the home while Snow said he watched to see if things would get out of hand.
Cooper wrote about the encounter on Facebook later that day. The post says several officers “showed up” and were very polite in their interaction. She then described a “supervisor” who arrived and “started throwing his weight around.” The post does not indicate why law enforcement was summoned to the home.
“Most Missoula police are good and decent people and we have a great police department, however, there are a very few that need to … find a new job," said Cooper's post. The account has since been deleted from Facebook.
Missoula Police Sgt. and Public Information Officer Travis Welsh was unable to provide any comment regarding Cooper’s previous encounter with law enforcement.
The Division of Criminal Investigation, part of the Montana Department of Justice, declined to release any further information regarding the investigation on Monday.