Saturday, January 20, 2018

Officer from in-custody shooting cleared

The Columbus Police officer involved in the in-custody suicide of a woman stopped for DUI on New Year’s Eve has been cleared.
Columbus Police Officer Kelly Mason returned to shift last Saturday after being cleared by the Montana Department of Justice Criminal Investigation Bureau (DCI) as well as a police psychologist, according to Columbus Police Chief Jacob Ward and Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.
Mason had been put on administrative leave with pay following the Dec. 31, 2016 incident, as is standard protocol following an in-custody death.
The term “in custody” means “any time a law enforcement officer conducts a traffic stop and the driver is not free to leave, by definition the driver is in custody,” said Ward.
Under Montana law, any time an “in custody” death occurs a law enforcement agency not involved with the incident is requested to conduct an investigation. In this case, Ward requested that DCI conducted an investigation.
Jamie B. Porter, a 48-year-old from Belfry died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when she was pulled over on suspicion of DUI at 11:39 p.m. in the area of Ninth Street and First Avenue.
According to Stillwater County Sheriff’s dispatch records, Mason reported the female driver was “refusing to get out of the vehicle.” Two minutes later, Mason reported shots fired and requested Columbus Fire Rescue respond for medical assistance, according to dispatch records.
Shortly after, Mason reported that the driver was dead. A gun was removed from the vehicle and Porter’s body was taken to the Stillwater Billings Clinic by ambulance, where the coroner was summoned, according to dispatch records.
Columbus police, Stillwater County Sheriff’s deputies and Montana Highway Patrol were immediately sent to the scene.
Mason was not injured in the shooting.
Rohde said a coroner’s inquest will be conducted as a matter of law. According to Montana Code Annotated 46-4-201 (2)(b), the county attorney shall order a coroner’s inquest if “while a person is being taken into custody or is in the custody of a peace officer or if the death is caused by a peace officer, except when criminal charges have been or will be filed.”
The statute also provides that when a person dies while in the custody of a peace officer, a qualified coroner of a neighboring county should conduct the inquest.
Park County Coroner Al Jenkins is handling the case.