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Former off-duty officer sentenced for threatening Blackfeet tribal employees

| November 24, 2021 12:00 AM

GREAT FALLS — A former off-duty federal law enforcement officer who admitted to misdemeanor assault for pointing an assault rifle at three Blackfeet tribal employees who were testing water on his property was sentenced today to five years of probation and ordered to pay $10,626 restitution, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Harrison Garrett Alvarez, 30, of Cut Bank, who was a Customs and Border Protection officer at the time of the offense, pleaded guilty in July to three counts of simple assault. Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on July 24, 2019, three employees of the Blackfeet Tribe’s Environmental Office went to Alvarez’s property near Cut Bank and within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to test water in Cut Bank Creek. The victims, who are tribal members, traveled by truck past Alvarez’s house to the creek. The trip was the victims’ fourth time that season to the testing site, having sought, and they believed received, permission for the testing from Alvarez’s wife.

While the victims were collecting water samples, a rifle shot rang out. The victims saw Alvarez approaching, pointing an assault rifle at them and yelling profanities, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Alvarez demanded to know what they were doing and who had given them permission to be there. When the victims explained that his wife had given them permission, Alvarez disputed that fact. Even after the victims told him they would leave, Alvarez, while still leveling the rifle at them, ordered them closer and demanded they drop their equipment. When Alvarez finally allowed the victims to leave, he told them that now they knew he “shoots first, asks questions later.”

All three victims believed Alvarez was going to shoot them and that they were going to die. All three victims addressed the Court at sentencing and talked about the lasting effect this assault has had on them. “He has taken my outdoor lifestyle away from me,” one of the victims told the court. “I don’t fish. I don’t go get wood. No more hiking. No more bow-hunting. No more four-wheeling.”