Butte bus hostage: “I’m grateful to be alive”

Posted at 10:32 AM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 12:50:51-05

A 52-year-old Spokane man remains in custody in Butte after a nine-hour standoff with police Wednesday.

He’s accused of hijacking a bus around 12:30 p.m. The suspect, armed with a handgun, held a 45-year-old Butte man hostage for around three hours.

The hostage, Dameane Baumgartner, was able to escape and sat down with MTN News Thursday to talk about his experience.

When Baumgartner saw the bus driver run out of the bus after it stopped in Butte, he knew something was wrong.

“All the sudden this guy, he had this hat with a pistol inside of it, and he put it in my face and said, ‘Sit down or die,’” said Baumgartner.

Thus began a three-hour long standoff with police inside a Jefferson Lines bus. Dameane, who was returning to Butte after a doctors appointment in Missoula, thought this was the end.

“He told me we were both going to die today,” Baumgartner said. “And the reason he ordered a meal was so that I could have my last meal because he already ate his.”

Police left food in the doorway of the bus and that’s when Dameane took a big chance.

“I said, ‘Hey, let me just reach down and grab it,’ and when I started to move forward our bodies became separated and felt that chance and spun around and punched him as hard as I could and ran out the bus and I escaped,” he recalled.

Dameane said he sympathized with his captor.

“He wanted a voice, he wanted to be heard, he wanted to be the white male that’s homeless that isn’t allowed to get help. He was a conservative, looking for a conservative place to go, which is why he chose Montana and I told him ‘So you chose Butte to get off in,’” he laughed.

But Dameane indicated the extremely traumatic situation didn’t leave him harboring any ill will or anger toward his captor.

“I don’t think he’s a monster, I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I think this guy was really sick I think he was confused in his head and unfortunately this is the way he handled it,” Baumgartner said.

Dameane said he’s been homeless, abused drugs and has a criminal record, so he can relate to the man who held him at gunpoint. Now, he has a new perspective on life.

“I’m grateful to be alive, I’m grateful that I’ve had a wife, I’m grateful for even all the prison time I’ve done. I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through and I’m grateful that I’m here talking to you today,” he said.

-Reported by John Emeigh/MTN News