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Big Sky Shooting

Missoula City Police officers Meagan Bilbrey, left, and Jeff Lloyd secure a portion of the parking lot at Big Sky High School in March where shots were reportedly fired after Lloyd, the school resource officer, chased a fleeing student into the parking lot.

The now 18-year-old Big Sky High School student whose car was shot at by the school resource officer when he fled the building in March — allegedly with cocaine and a pistol — will be tried as a juvenile.

District Court Judge Karen Townsend made the decision following two days of testimony on the matter in late May.

Because the case is being moved back to Youth Court, the Missoulian is not identifying the student.

After the March 16 incident, prosecutors filed counts of felony drug possession and evidence tampering, as well as two criminal endangerment charges and a misdemeanor for obstructing an officer.

Because of the student’s age and a mandate in Montana law, the drug possession charge meant the case was filed in adult court, which was followed by a request to have it moved back to Youth Court.

In her decision to send the case back to Youth Court, Townsend said she was swayed by the testing from a psychologist who found the student to be a low risk of reoffending.

Part of the contention regarding moving the case back to Youth Court was that because the student is now 18 years old, the court will not be able to pay for any rehabilitative services he may be mandated to go through when his case is adjudicated. Townsend wrote in her order however that this was no different than if he was found guilty as an adult and forced to do treatment out of custody, which would also not be paid for.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Townsend said the case will continue in Youth Court under what’s called extended jurisdiction, which allows the judge to essentially give two sentences if the student is found guilty: one juvenile sentence and another adult one that would only kick in if the student violates the conditions of the juvenile one.

In hearings last month, prosecutor Jennifer Clark, as well as a youth probation officer for the student — who had committed prior misdemeanors for assault and theft — asked Townsend to keep the case in District Court, arguing the allegations against the student were serious and included bringing a gun to Big Sky.

According to court documents, Big Sky school resource officer Jeff Lloyd and the probation officer were investigating after receiving a photo of the student with a large amount of money and a gun, and believed he was dealing drugs.

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The student allegedly lied when officers asked to search his car, then ran from the building, chased by Lloyd. In the parking lot, the student got into his car and drove at Lloyd, who according to the defense attorney fired five times as the student drove away.

A chase with police included the student allegedly driving off the road and nearly hitting a pedestrian as well as throwing the pistol out of the car. The student crashed in a car dealership parking lot on Reserve Street and was arrested. A search found 2.1 grams of cocaine and more than $1,000 in cash in the car or on the student, court records say.

The student told Townsend Tuesday he was finishing up the last part of make-up assignments to be able to graduate from high school.

He remains released after posting a $20,000 bond in May, and has another appearance scheduled for July.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.