Montana Public Radio

Missoula Police: No Evidence Patrol Car Was Fired On

Feb 25, 2020

Missoula police still have no conclusive evidence that a city patrol car was actually shot last week. The ongoing investigation is raising more questions than answers.

Missoula Police Department Interim Chief Mike Colyer speaks to the press Feb. 25, 2020 about the department's investigation of a Feb. 12 report from a police officer that his patrol car was fired upon.
Credit Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

Hard facts are few and far in between when it comes to last Wednesday’s reported shooting of a patrol car on the 400 block of Missoula’s Woody Street.

MPD Interim Chief Mike Colyer say several witnesses reported hearing a loud "pop" before the officer’s rear window shattered.

"One of the witnesses, ironically, told us, 'I’ve been shot at'. She said, 'I know what it sounds like to be shot at, and that was a gunshot'"

Colyer says a thorough investigation turned up nothing to suggest a weapon was actually fired last week; no bullet casings or fragments were found. A study of the window glass itself was also inconclusive.

The entire vehicle was even x-rayed twice, to look for bullet fragments.

"We’ve not located any fragments in the backseat of that car. We’ve visually examined it to see if there's a projectile that went in and bounced off something inside that car, and haven’t located that either," Colyer says.

Investigators have also taken structural failure into account:

"We also talked to glass experts ... auto glass. They said it’s possible that you do have these type of manufactured defects that pop and shatter in place leaving a void, which is similar to what we saw in our car that day."

Colyer says an out-of-state friend says just such a thing happened to him last week.

A tow truck tows a patrol car after a Missoula Police officer reported that the car's back window had been shot out during a traffic stop near the Missoula Courthouse Feb. 12, 2020.
Credit Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

He has no regrets about deploying fully armed tactical teams downtown, locking-down Missoula City Hall and several county buildings, and closing streets in a five-block radius surrounding the Courthouse.

"It is all about ensuring safety at that point. The safety, first and foremost, of any uninvolved third party in the area; the safety of our officers to have the right people there with the right training and equipment to handle that mission."

Colyer says he erred on the side of public safety, even if that meant inconveniencing the public for a while.

The investigation, while so far inconclusive, is ongoing.