A Missoula man accused of shooting a convenience store employee and a customer during a robbery changed his plea to guilty Tuesday in Missoula District court.
Appearing before Judge Karen Townsend, Chase James Munson, 19, waived his right to a trial and pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted deliberate homicide, as well as felony theft, robbery and criminal mischief charges. This follows his initial plea of not guilty in April 2018 and several months of deferring a trial until prosecutors and Munson’s defense came to a plea agreement.
Each count of attempted deliberate homicide carries a maximum prison time of 100 years. Townsend has set Munson’s sentencing for July 22.
County prosecutors filed charges against Munson after he and Ivory Brien, then 18 and a University of Montana student, were accused of entering the convenience store at the intersection of Higgins and South Avenue armed with a .22-caliber pistol. Brien carried pepper spray.
According to court documents, Munson shot a customer in the head and an employee in the shoulder before leaving with Brien, who used the pepper spray on both. Both victims survived the shooting. Missoula police arrested Munson at a hotel near the airport, while Flathead tribal police apprehended Brien. Both had their bail set at $1 million.
In October 2018, Brien received a deferred sentence of 10 years for his role in the shooting after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit robbery and two assault misdemeanors. So long as Brien does not break any laws or conditions set by the court, the charges can be dismissed after his sentence.
During his hearing Tuesday, Munson’s defense attorney Leta Womack asked him if he entered the convenience store and shot the customer and the employee.
“Yes, I did,” Munson said.
He also said he was under the influence of drugs during the shooting. He intended to rob the store, he said, and panicked.
Munson then pleaded guilty to charges filed in May 2018 of allegedly stealing a Toyota 4Runner Jan. 30 of that year and ramming it through the garage door of a medical marijuana dispensary. Charging documents say a witness saw Munson, who originally pleaded not guilty, leave the scene with a marijuana plant.
When asked in court by his defense attorney if he committed these crimes, he said he had. As per his agreement with prosecutors, additional charges stemming from other reported burglaries have been dismissed.
The charges of burglary, theft and criminal mischief will be included in his July 22 sentencing.