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Bonner man sentenced for pointing rifle at man in dispute

Bonner man sentenced for pointing rifle at man in dispute

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Jesse Lee Pearce

Jesse Pearce. 

A Bonner man was sentenced Tuesday for pointing a rifle at a man outside a motel on West Broadway Street last summer.

Jesse Lee Pearce, 44, received a three-year deferred sentence for one count of criminal endangerment. If he follows the conditions, which include not possessing a firearm, the charge will be wiped from his record.

Pearce entered a no contest plea to one count of criminal endangerment in July. A no contest plea means the defendant is not admitting guilt but concedes the prosecution has sufficient evidence for a conviction and accepts the punishments of a guilty plea.

Missoula District Court Judge Robert DesChamps presided.

Missoula police responded to a disturbance at a motel on West Broadway Street on Aug. 22, 2020. They found Pearce with his wife and child.

Pearce reported he was in an argument with his wife when a man approached them, appearing to be filming them with his phone, according to charging documents. He said he told the man, the victim in the incident, to stop filming, to which the victim responded with a threat of retrieving a gun. Pearce responded by saying he would go get his own gun.

However, Pearce denied pointing the firearm, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle, at the man.

Pearce’s wife told police that after the victim told Pearce he would get a gun, Pearce did point his rifle at the man.

When officers spoke with a motel employee, she reported seeing a couple fighting outside the hotel. The employee attempted to de-escalate the situation. When she approached the two men, one of them got inside his vehicle and pointed a gun at her, she told police. Charging documents did not specify which man pointed a gun at her.

The employee believed had she not intervened, one of the men would have been shot.

The victim Pearce accused of filming him told law enforcement he was not filming Pearce, and said Pearce was the first to say he would grab his gun, charging documents said. The victim responded by saying he'd get his own gun, although he didn't have one — he hoped this response would deter any further violence.

The victim said Pearce then pointed the rifle at him, prompting him to run behind a vehicle, believing Pearce was going to shoot him.

Pearce was originally charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, which was amended to one count of criminal endangerment. Both are felony charges.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge DesChamps followed the sentencing recommendations of the plea agreement, but said he was reluctant to follow the agreement, citing significant concern for the negligent use of a firearm in this case.

“I really have a hard time when people misuse firearms,” Judge DesChamps said. “Pulling guns on people under the circumstances involved here is unacceptable.”

Pearce declined to comment in court, and no victim impact statements were read.

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