DCI investigating fatal shooting by deputy near East Helena - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

DCI investigating fatal shooting by deputy near East Helena

Posted: Feb 05, 2018 8:39 PM Updated:

The Lewis and Clark County Coroner’s Office has released the name of a man shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy outside East Helena last week.

Coroner Bryan Backeberg identified the man as 26-year-old Taylor Schnortz of Townsend.

Earlier Monday, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton identified the deputy who fired on Schnortz as 29-year-old Andrew Blythe. Blythe started with the department as a detention officer in 2009, then became a sworn deputy in 2011.

Dutton said Blythe has received advanced training in crisis intervention and weapon retention, and that he serves as one of the sheriff’s office’s use of force instructors for defensive tactics.

Deputies responded to a home in the 2600 block of Casper Drive late Thursday, for a report of a man who was harming himself and talking about suicide.

Dutton said Schnortz had a handgun, and that deputies spent around an hour negotiating with him. In the end, he said Blythe had to shoot Schnortz to protect himself and others.

Dutton brought in the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation to investigate the shooting. The division handles the majority of officer-involved shootings in the state.

DCI administrator Bryan Lockerby said his agency treats these cases the same as any other criminal investigation.

They will study the scene of the shooting, interview witnesses, and the officers and look at toxicology reports.

They will then turn their findings over to the county attorney’s office, which will decide whether any charges should be filed.

“We don’t make any final decisions on it; that’s not our job,” Lockerby said. “We simply gather the facts.”

Lockerby said the Casper Drive investigation will be simpler than some, since it involves only one location and relatively few officers.

But he said it’s still too early to know how long it could take to complete the investigation.

“We don’t want to be in a hurry,” he said. “Our goal is to be thorough and exact and precise, because we don’t want to make mistakes. If we get rushed, there’s potential for mistakes.”

Blythe will be on administrative leave until the sheriff’s office conducts its own internal investigation and he completes a fit-for-duty exam from a mental health therapist, as is standard procedure.

Dutton said the administrative review could take up to two weeks.

Dutton also asked the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation to conduct a separate investigation of the shooting. He said that could take as long as six weeks.

Dutton said the final review will be a coroner’s inquest.

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