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Montana investigation: Death in police shooting was suicide

by Associated Press
| August 17, 2021 1:05 PM

HELENA (AP) — The man who died in an officer-involved shooting last week in Missoula died by suicide after a police chase, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation reported Monday.

Brendon Galbreath, a 21-year-old Blackfeet Nation citizen who lived in Missoula, passed away in a hospital early Thursday after police said he fled a traffic stop.

Division administrator Bryan Lockerby said in a statement that the officer on the scene reported seeing Galbreath, still seated in his car, "raising up a handgun" at the same time that the officer pointed his gun toward Galbreath.

Galbreath's gun discharged in the car. The officer perceived he was being shot at and returned fire with one shot, Lockerby said. According to his statement, dash-cam video indicated Galbreath died of a self-inflicted gunshot, and not the shot fired by the officer, which struck the car but not Galbreath. The bullet fired by the officer was reportedly recovered at the scene.

The name of the officer, who reportedly had three years of law enforcement experience, has not been released.

Lockerby said this finding is the result of the division's initial assessment, and that investigation is ongoing. Once complete, a report will be submitted to the Missoula County attorney for review.

The shots were fired after a "high speed, high stress" chase through Missoula, which put a number of bystanders at risk, according to the Lockerby.

The statement comes after information made public by Missoula police last week led to confusion over whether Galbreath's death was a result of shots fired by the officer or Galbreath.

Galbreath's brother, Terrance LaFromboise, said in an interview Friday that when his family first heard from the police, they were informed that Galbreath died by suicide. But later statements by law enforcement contradicted that, leaving the family facing uncertainty, LaFromboise said.

While his family has a history of mental health and suicide, LaFromboise said Friday he had not received any indication from his brother that he would hurt himself or others.

LaFromboise declined to be interviewed Monday. The family has retained legal counsel.

Galbreath was the salutatorian of his class at Browning High School and had been an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He moved to Missoula during the coronavirus pandemic, after several of his relatives contracted COVID-19 and died. He was working at an AT&T store and was planning to apply to study at the University of Montana.