By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre Police Department is facing a possible loss of four officers over the next three weeks. The officers have been subpoenaed as witnesses in this month's trial of a man charged with killing a Blaine County sheriff's deputy and wounding another last year.
The Police Department is making one scheduling change and relying on help from Blaine County to minimize the impact on Havre, Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel said.
Barthel will be in Missoula for the entire length of the trial of Laurence Jackson, 26, of Harlem, which begins Tuesday and is scheduled to end Nov. 1. Jackson is charged with deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case.
"My thoughts are to keep the Havre police officers in Havre until they are needed," Barthel said.
Assistant Chief George Tate, Lt. Russ Ostwalt, and Sgt. Shane Huston have also been subpoenaed, but the Police Department hasn't been told when and for how long those officers will have to be in Missoula. The department has a total of 19 sworn officers, Barthel said.
The department is making a substitution in one officer's shift, Barthel said. For the period of the trial, Capt. Stan Martin has been rescheduled to work Monday through Friday, rather than his regular Sunday-through-Thursday schedule.
In the event that both Barthel and Tate are absent for the trial at the same time, Martin will be in charge of the department, Barthel said.
Barthel was the lead crime scene investigator following the May 29, 2003, fatal shooting of deputy Joshua Rutherford and wounding of deputy Loren Janis. The deputies were responding to a call about a domestic disturbance when the shooting occurred.
The investigation was conducted by neighboring agencies, including Havre police, according to protocol when one agency's personnel fall victim to an alleged crime.
Huston and Ostwalt assisted at the crime scene, and Tate served a search warrant on the suspect.
Barthel said he thinks that with the help of Blaine County, the trial will not disrupt law enforcement in Havre.
"Blaine County ... contracted with a flying service to fly our people to and from the trial at a moment's notice," Barthel said. "All my officers are very capable of investigations. If something should happen in the interim, (the officers at trial) can return on a moment's notice as well."
Tate has declined the offer of the flying service, preferring the five-hour drive to Missoula, Barthel said.
"Blaine County has agreed to pick up the entire cost of anything resulting from the trial," Barthel said. These costs will include transportation, motel rooms, and per diem for personnel.
The trial was moved to Missoula after the defense argued that media coverage of the case could taint the jury pool in north-central Montana.
Jackson is accused of shooting the deputies after wrestling Rutherford's gun away from him during a foot pursuie. A forensics expert hired by the defense said the fatal bullet came from a ricocheting bullet fired from Janis' gun during the pursuit.