A California man held anti-government and pro-militia views when he and his son went on a “suicide mission” that led to the shooting death of a Broadwater County deputy, high-speed chase and shootout with police, a prosecutor said Thursday.
But a defense attorney told jurors that Lloyd Mortier Barrus was just trying to avoid a DUI and keep his son, Marshall Barrus, out of more legal trouble in the early morning hours of May 16, 2017 when Deputy Mason Moore was killed, and the events were fueled by alcohol.
Moore was shot in his patrol car on U.S. 287 near Three Forks, and two hours later and 160 miles to the west, Marshall Barrus was mortally wounded in a shootout with 14 officers off of I-90 in Missoula County. Lloyd Barrus, now 65, was hit in the hand and arrested.
He is charged with four felonies, including deliberate homicide by accountability, two counts of attempted deliberate homicide by accountability and assault on an officer. The homicide charges all carry a possible life sentence.
His trial was moved to Butte because of pre-trial publicity and in opening arguments Thursday, prosecutors showed patrol car video of Moore tailing a Chevy Suburban that Lloyd Barrus was allegedly driving while his son fired shots at Moore’s car.
Prosecutors believe Moore was struck by a bullet, his car stopped in some grass, and he was still alive when Lloyd Barrus turned around and Marshall Barrus fired at least 19 more rounds into the car, at least two striking him in the head and face.
A trooper found Moore “without a face,” Prosecutor Dan Guzynski said, and although jurors were not shown a photo of that, they saw pictures of his dead body slumped to one side, holding his radio mike with both hands in his lap soaked with blood.
Moore was 42 and left a wife, Jodi, and three children. Guzynski said he was living a “blessed life” and “doing what he loved” when he was killed, and his wife took the stand briefly Thursday recounting how they met and that Moore became a Broadwater County deputy in 2015.
Prosecutors say Lloyd Barrus was at a campsite at Canyon Ferry with Marshall Barrus, his girlfriend, Tara Gallagher, and their three children before the men left around 2 a.m. and didn’t return.
According to prosecutors, Lloyd had written a three-page “manifesto” filled with “anti-government rhetoric,” gave it to Gallagher that night and told her, “We’re going on a suicide mission and if you go, you will die.”
Lloyd and Marshall took off in the Suburban and, according to prosecutors, sped past Moore’s clearly marked car on “a lonely stretch” of U.S. 287 south of Townsend to provoke him as part of the suicide mission.
Moore’s patrol camera was damaged when shots rang out, but prosecutors say it still picked up audio of Moore moaning and after silence with the car still, numerous additional shots are heard and were clearly audible to the jury.
Prosecutors also showed video from the patrol car of a trooper who found Moore’s car about 15 minutes later. It shows the trooper walking up to the car, looking inside, saying “Oh (expletive),” and darting back to his own car.
Butte-Silver Bow police spotted the Suburban speeding westbound on I-90 an hour later, gave chase and officers from several counties joined in. Shots were fired at them, allegedly from Marshall Barrus as his father drove, and two Butte-Silver Bow cars were struck and disabled. Video shows them coming to stops.
When the ordeal ended in the shootout, with Marshall Barrus mortally wounded, Lloyd Barrus is heard telling an officer, “I’m just evil militia.” He was then shown in a patrol car saying, “I would accept death. I wish he’d take me out and hang me.”
The jury also heard audio of a phone call Barrus placed from his jail cell two days later telling his mother, “This is what Marshall and I have lived for. I was born to do this, mother.”
Guzynski suggested it was all fueled by anti-government and militia views and everything that occurred was done in concert.
“This is what Mason Moore died for — their beliefs,” he said.
Craig Shannon, a defense attorney from Missoula, sought to refute that the crimes were tied to those beliefs or that everything began as a suicide mission.
He called the Lloyd Barrus “manifesto” an “essay” and said he had written it in 1999, handed it out to everyone and always took copies with him.
Shannon said Marshall Barrus was living in Gallatin County, had reconciled with Gallagher after 10 years, and had recently been arrested for burglary and laid off when his father left Bakersfield, California to help his son.
He loaded up the Suburban with tools, came to Montana, and he and his son were trying to find work and planning to build a house when they decided to go camping with Gallagher and the children.
“He came with no firearms, no weapons,” Shannon told jurors. “Lloyd’s plan was to help Marshall and get Marshall on his feet. It was his plan throughout this whole case — not to kill an officer.”
Shannon said they camped for a week and “everything was fine,” but that changed on May 15.
“Marshall started drinking,” Shannon said. “He drank a lot. He consumed very large quantities of alcohol” and Gallagher knew “Marshall has no brakes when he drinks.”
Marshall got angry and upset during the night, at one point fired shots from his semi-automatic rifle into the ground, and Lloyd Barrus did say something about a suicide mission. But Shannon said he tossed that phrase out casually all the time.
When Gallagher took the stand Thursday afternoon, she agreed with that.
“Everything he did was a suicide mission,” she said.
She acknowledged she had seen the so-called manifesto numerous times, but said on this night, Lloyd Barrus signed and dated it before he and Marshall left. And just before they left, she said Marshall cut off a court-ordered alcohol-monitor and gave it to her.
Shannon said Lloyd Barrus didn’t pass Moore to provoke him, and once the chase was on, kept driving to avoid a DUI and help his son avoid more legal troubles.
He suggested that Marshall fired initial shots trying to scare Moore off and one or more ricocheted off the highway and was fatal. More shots are heard on the patrol car video, but Shannon said that’s all that is known.
“We don’t know why they returned or who returned,” Shannon said, adding that prosecutors “have to prove that Lloyd was in cahoots” with Marshall throughout.
One of Marshall’s daughters also testified Thursday. She said Lloyd Barrus told her she was “born into the militia” and that “all police should be hung.”
The trial resumes Friday and could up to three weeks.