Missoula and Western Montana | Montana's News Leader®

Missoula, Evaro shooting victims return home to Stevensville

STEVENSVILLE – A sigh of relief across the state of Montana this weekend as two of the victims fighting to survive a tragic shooting spree in mid-March are finally home.

Missoula Police received the initial call shortly before 11 p.m. on March 14 with reports of gunfire with three people shot near the Stonecreek Lodge at Expressway in Missoula.

Julie Blanchard had gone to pick up her son Casey and his friend Shelley Hayes at a local bar.

Court documents said the suspect followed them flashing his lights. When they pulled over to see if something was wrong, Johnathan Bertsch, 28, of Arlee opened fire.

Shelley Hayes was dead when officers arrived on scene. He was a father, and according to those who knew him best, his entire world revolved around his little girl.

Early in the morning on March 15, while pursuing the suspect Trooper Wade Palmer reported to dispatchers that he was under fire as he was ambushed and shot in his patrol car.

The next officer to arrive on the scene, found Palmer still seat-belted in his vehicle.

Bertsch was caught by law enforcement after a seven-hour manhunt along US Highway 93 North.

Both Trooper Palmer and Casey Blanchard were very badly injured. Palmer had been shot in the face, head and neck while Blanchard was shot in the left arm, right chest, spine, abdomen and both legs.

Both men were later transferred to the University Hospital in Salt Lake City.

This incident stunned all of Montana and was discussed throughout the nation but now Trooper Palmer and Casey Blanchard are both finally home.

The community of Stevensville — where both Blanchard and Palmer reside — made sure to show their support and give the two men a hero’s welcome.

“One of the nicest guys. One of the most genuine people you could ask for. Just a great friend and neighbor they’re just good individuals that have done their jobs their whole lives,” Stevensville resident Jon Vercruyssen said of Blanchard.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox spoke at a press conference when Palmer returned home.

“I want to recognize the fraternal order of police Utah chapter who took care of the families needs and the Montana Highway Patrol’s needs — and again even the needs of some of the shooting victims who were ultimately transferred to the same hospital that Wade was in,” Fox said.

The men are now sleeping in their own beds in their hometown, but some of the most difficult challenges may be yet to come.

“Number one, that we all respect the privacy of Wade and his family — but that we continue to act in ways of love and support. Not a worry for Wade and Lindsay and their family [and] for all of the victims and their families of that shooting that tragic night. All of these individuals are worthy of our love and support,” Fox said.

Both of the victims fighting to survive a tragic shooting spree in mid-March are finally home.

This incident stunned all of Montana and was discussed throughout the nation. But now, Trooper Wade Palmer and Casey Blanchard are both finally home.

The community of Stevensville where both Blanchard and Palmer reside made sure to show their support and give the two men a hero’s welcome.

Lauren Heiser

Lauren Heiser

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