Investigation shows detective 'within guidelines' in alleged drug bust shooting


MISSOULA, Mont. - The investigation into an officer involved shooting is done but Missoula County officials aren't releasing all of the details.

Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen says he reviewed the investigation conducted by officials in Ravalli County after Detective Jonathan Stineford shot suspected meth dealer Harry Louis VanPelt during an alleged drug bust. Ibsen said Stineford acted within the ‘use of force' guidelines, but those are the only details coming from the county for now.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said he plans to look through the investigation but that it could take a week for him to get through. Even then Van Valkenburg said some information may still remain under wraps.

"At this time, the report constitutes confidential criminal justice information pursuant to Sec. 44-5-303 MCA and cannot be disseminated to anyone outside of a criminal justice agency," Van Valkenburg wrote in an email.

"After I have reviewed it, unless we were to decide that criminal charges should be filed with respect to the incident, I will make a determination pursuant to 44-5-303(2) as to what degree the report contains information that can be publicly released. I expect there will be certain redactions necessary because of the likelihood that the demands of individual privacy will clearly exceed the merits of public disclosure."

But Montana Freedom of Information Hotline Lawyer Mike Meloy said he doesn't understand the issue of privacy.

"If the document involves a police officer who's vested with the public trust and has violated that trust then the officer does not have an expectation of privacy," Meloy said. "And if he doesn't than the document has to be disclosed."

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