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Probe into Evaro, Missoula shootings continue, trooper in critical condition

MISSOULA – A late night shooting and early morning discovery led to a trooper winding up in critical condition in a Missoula hospital.

Early Friday morning near the Evaro Bar and Casino Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer located a suspected vehicle matching the description of the person involved in a Missoula shooting before midnight.

Missoula Police received the initial call shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday night with reports of gunfire with three people shot near the Stone Creek Lodge at Expressway in Missoula.

The suspect, Johnathon Bertsch, fled the scene and led multiple agencies on a seven-hour manhunt along US Highway 93 North.

Johnathan Bertsch. (Missoula County Sheriff’s Office)

Missoula units set up a perimeter and warned area residents to lock their doors, a suspect was at large.

Within moments, a second shooting was reported near Evaro Bar and Casino where Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer located a vehicle matching the description.

Palmer was ambushed and shot in his patrol car.  Trooper Alex Hiday who was the next officer to arrive on the scene found Palmer still seatbelted in his vehicle.

The suspect again fled the scene and after an extensive manhunt, at approximately 6:15 a.m., sheriff’s deputies took Bertsch into custody without incident.

Palmer was immediately transported to St. Patrick Hospital where he was listed as being in critical condition. He has since been airlifted to to Salt Lake City, according to MHP.

MHP said Friday afternoon that a GoFundMe page has been established for Palmer and his family. You can click here to donate.

Trooper Palmer has been with the Patrol since 2012 and was awarded MHP’s highest honor in 2015 — the Medal of Valor — for his heroic lifesaving efforts in 2014 crash.

There’s still no information available on the other three victims shot — other than they were injured.

The Montana Department of Justice has taken over the investigation involving Trooper Palmer while the Missoula Police Department is investigating the shootings near Expressway.


Kent Luetzen

Kent Luetzen

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