YAAK — A Troy man is being held on $100,000 bond after he allegedly pointed a pistol at the owner of Yaak’s Dirty Shame Saloon Saturday night and, after being doused with bear spray, returned to the area armed with an AR-15 and pistol.
Nathan Norman, 43, allegedly was found prone in a “tactical position” on a hillside about 50 feet behind the saloon by sheriff’s deputies using spotlights. His rifle was equipped with an illuminated red dot scope.
“This was something that could have gone really bad,” said Dirty Shame Saloon owner John Runkle.
Norman was charged with felony assault with a weapon and misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass to property and disorderly conduct.
According to court records and Runkle, the incident at the Dirty Shame Saloon began a little after 7 p.m Saturday night. By that time, Runkle had asked Norman and his brother to leave following an altercation between Norman and his ex-girlfriend.
Some of what happened afterward was captured on video cameras installed outside of the bar.
Once outside, Runkle said Norman threatened him.
Runkle said he stood on the bar's deck and told the pair they couldn’t come back in. When the brothers started coming up the steps, Runkle said he and his cook sprayed them with bear pepper spray.
Charging documents said Norman retreated to his pickup while threatening to shoot Runkle.
One of the saloon’s video cameras captured Norman coming into the light with a pistol in his hand. At one point, he appears to point the pistol at a man.
After Norman appeared with a pistol in his hand, Runkle locked the saloon’s doors and called 911.
The Normans left the property for a short time. When they returned, Runkle said people inside the bar watched Nathan Norman get out of the pickup and run up the hill behind the Dirty Shame.
“We watched him get dropped off and then saw him go running into the woods,” Runkle said. “We weren’t sure what the heck was going on. It was worse than we thought. He was 50 feet away with a perfect line of sight on the bar. … It appeared that he was certainly waiting to shoot somebody, probably me.”
Runkle said he had only seen Norman a couple of times before. All he knew for sure about the man was that he was the ex-bass player for Copper Mountain Band, which was a popular group before it broke up.
It took time for deputies to arrive on the scene.
“We’re two hours away or an hour in an emergency,” Runkle said.
When officers arrived, they escorted Norman’s ex-girlfriend and her brother away from the business before starting their search for Norman.
Using their spotlights, they found him lying in a depression on the hillside behind the saloon in a spot that allowed him to look into its south-side windows. He was arrested without incident.
At the detention center, Norman’s blood alcohol level tested .143. In Montana, a person is considered too impaired to drive with a .08 BAC.
Initially, the Lincoln County attorney’s office requested a $15,000 bond. After reviewing the reports of the incident, County Attorney Marcia Boris asked a judge to increase that amount to $100,000 “to ensure the public safety and safety of the victim in this matter.”
Boris said the reports and videos indicated that Norman pointed a gun at a victim, left the area and then returned to the scene to hide in what a law enforcement officer described as a “tactical position with hard cover and a clear view of the windows, exit and parking lot of the Dirty Shame.”
“This gives the strong appearance that the defendant was not in fear for his own safety, but had left the scene and then returned to the Dirty Shame with intent to do harm to another person,” Boris wrote. “He was located essentially ‘lying in wait’ with two loaded firearms, both of which had live rounds in the chamber.”
Boris said law enforcement officers were working to locate a witness who allegedly overhead Norman say the words to the effect of “tell my kids I love them. I’m going to die tonight.”
Justice Jay Sheffield approved the bond increase.
Norman remained in the Lincoln County Detention Center Thursday.
Runkle said he understood the increased bail was the result of his video camera surveillance that showed Norman pointing the pistol twice at people.
This wasn’t the first time the bar’s surveillance videos at the Dirty Shame Saloon were reviewed following an alleged crime.
A North Idaho couple was charged with homicide after the bar’s surveillance camera showed they were in the small town on the day the woman’s former boyfriend was killed.
Ezra Skinner, 28, and Sandra Carpenter Skinner, 27, were charged with shooting Travis Gillett five times and dumping his body off the embankment of a remote and unplowed road in the Yaak area last January.
After leading two hunters to Gillett’s body, Sandra Skinner was interviewed by sheriff’s deputies. She told them she had never been in Yaak before, but the Dirty Shame Saloon video showed otherwise, Runkle said.
“I actually served them drinks on the day of the murder,” Runkle said. “I can still remember what they had. She had a double shot of Jack Daniel's and he had a double shot of Sailor Jerry. They toasted each other.”
Runkle said they were arrested after his cook overheard the woman tell deputies that she had never been in the area before.
“He told me about it,” Runkle said. “He said, ‘That’s the lady that was in here on Saturday with that guy.’ The videotape doesn’t lie.”
While High Country News called the Dirty Shame Bar an icon known for its drunken rowdiness, Runkle said it’s usually a pretty quiet place.
“We have never had anything close to what happened here Saturday,” he said. “I run a tight ship, but every once in awhile some jackass comes in. We really don’t have that many problems here.”
Still, anyone interested in owning an icon should give Runkle a call.
The Dirty Shame Saloon is for sale.
“I think it’s time for me to try something else,” he said.