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Driver accused of hitting jogger on riverfront trail held on $100K bail

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A man accused of driving a car onto the Kim Williams walking trail, hitting a jogger and scattering pedestrians and dogs, is being held in the Missoula County jail on $100,000 bail.

“This is just really scary,” Missoula County Justice of the Peace John Odlin said Monday. “I think there’s a significant community safety risk here.”

Paul Silas Amyotte, 19, of Ronan was charged with two counts of felony criminal endangerment and negligent vehicular assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He’s also charged with reckless driving, a misdemeanor.

Police got wind of the incident late Saturday night, when people started calling 9-1-1 to report someone driving dangerously near the Burger King on East Broadway, according to charging documents filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Suzy Boylan.

The motorist crossed the footbridge at the Eastgate Shopping Center, hitting one of the concrete barriers designed to keep vehicles off the bridge, and turned west onto the riverfront trail, Boylan’s affidavit said.

Shanna Ungate, 24, and her boyfriend Kevin Bissett, 28, were walking their dogs along the trail between the Madison Street and Higgins Avenue bridges when they heard a car coming up behind them.

“It had its lights on, thank God. We turned around and thought it was a police car or something, but we realized it was going much faster,” Ungate said.

She and Bissett dove out of the way. The car zoomed past, coming within inches of Nala, their 4-month-old husky-Malinois cross.

“It was maybe a foot from me, maybe two feet from Kevin,” she said. “We dropped a couple of f-bombs.”

The couple at first thought one of the dogs had been hit, according to Boylan’s affidavit, but both Nala and Gunnar, an Australian-chow mix, were fine.

Bissett briefly ran after the car, then he and Ungate turned around and went back along the trail toward home. They came across a man on a cellphone standing over a man lying unconscious on the ground, Ungate said.

“Kevin took the dogs and I made sure he was OK,” Ungate said of the man on the ground.

Boylan’s affidavit listed the man’s injuries as a broken wrist, a bruised lung, and a cut on his scalp that required 27 staples to close. The man initially was put into a medically induced coma, and later regained consciousness, the affidavit said.

Missoula Police Detective Sgt. Bob Bouchee said Monday that the man is recovering and his injuries were not life-threatening.

The car that allegedly hit the man came to a stop at the traffic circle at South Fourth Street West and Chestnut Street, “having left a trail of vehicle fluids and tire tracks for much of the distance between the footbridge and the traffic circle,” Boylan’s affidavit said.

People who saw the crash said the driver moved from his seat into the passenger seat afterward.

A preliminary breath test put his alcohol level at 0.289, well above the legal driving limit of 0.08, the affidavit said.

The owner of the vehicle Amyotte was driving had reported it stolen, Boylan said.

All the felony charges against Amyotte carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The criminal endangerment charges also carry a possible fine of up to $50,000, while the vehicular assault charge could bring a $10,000 fine.

Ungate said she’s just thankful that no one was on the bridge when the car crossed it, and that more people didn’t get hurt.

“People use that trail just to avoid drunk people,” she said.

 

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or on CopsAndCourts.com.

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