Annette Hayden Havre Daily News email@example.com
Chouteau County Sheriff Vern Burdick released a statement Monday regarding the death of a 13-year-old Havre boy who shot at law enforcement Sunday on U.S. Highway 223. The tragedy felt by family, friends and officers alike unrolled as Burdick’s office received notice of a gas drive-off from Mike’s Thriftway in Chester around 11 p. m. Saturday. The notification came from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. “A Chouteau County Deputy responded and observed the vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle at mile marker 17 on Montana 223,” Burdick said. “The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver failed to yield and a pursuit ensued.” Montana Highway Patrol received a call for assistance from the Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office at 11:27 p.m. “At approximately mile marker five, in the south-bound lane, a trooper of the Montana Highway Patrol placed stop sticks on the roadway to disable the vehicle,” Burdick said. “Shortly after striking the stop sticks, the vehicle stopped in the ditch near the fence. The driver fired a weapon at the Chouteau County deputy striking his patrol vehicle. The driver of the vehicle then drove southbound on 223. ” The deputy and the trooper, using the Chouteau County patrol car, pursued the suspect vehicle. About three miles south on 223 the vehicle stopped and the driver fired several more rounds at the deputy and the trooper. “The deputy and the trooper returned fire,” Burdick said. “The officers secured the suspect, gave medical assistance and called for an ambulance. An ambulance was dispatched to the scene and Mercy Flight was en route. Mercy Flight transported the suspect to Benefis Hospital in Great Falls.” The boy was pronounced dead at Benefis Hospital by Fergus County Deputy Coroner Jeremy Bristol. The Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office had requested an independent coroner, according to Bristol, since the coroner and sheriff’s departments in Chouteau are connected. “The suspect was later identified as a 13-year-old male from Havre,” Burdick said. “The vehicle was reported to be stolen from Havre.” The boy was identified as Mark Keeley, according to Fergus County Coroner Dick Brown. “We had the autopsy performed Sunday so we should have the results by the end of next week.” A toxicology report is hoped to shed some light on the boy’s erratic behavior. Investigation of the incident by the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is ongoing. In accordance with MHP and Chouteau County Sheriff’s Department policies, both the deputy and trooper involved were placed on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation, according to Burdick.
Keeley was a current student at Havre Middle School. School authorities began work to assist students and staff in dealing with the incident over the weekend. “Havre Public School District has a crisis management plan fully developed by the counseling department,” said Superintendent Kirk miller. “ Immediately when we became of aware of the potential Sunday night, we began to put that plan in place. Building principal Vance Bladder called a meeting with the staff early Monday before school to inform the staff of the facts we had at the time surrounding matter. One major component of the plan is to help staff be vigilant in watching for students coming into our environment who might need counseling, someone to talk to or a quite place to go, which was the case. WE that in by 7:45 a. m. as students stated to come in. “As outlined in the plan, we had a large part of our counseling team assigned to the middle school.,” Miller said. “The lead was Dana West, one of middle school counselors, along with counselor Meland Wanda. Those two are regularly at the middle school. We also had Mark West, a high school counselor who was assigned to the middles school Monday, and two Altacare counselors. The Altacare counselors are from a private entity that provides school based mental health counseling services to identify kids, usually. On a day like yesterday they were available to assist. So we literally had five fully on board on board to meet the needs of students, staff and parents. Another major component of the plan is to work with students and the education team to put a stop to the rumor mill. We only talk about the facts on information confirmed by the police department. We ask that our students refrain from perpetuating any rumor and as we learn the facts we will let them know.” Miller met with the building principal and others at the end of school Monday to evaluate and implement a plan for Tuesday. “We are continuing with the counseling services and being sensitive to the families as well as protecting the environment of an ongoing investigation,” he said. Miller also made contact with North Star School were Keeley transferred from in January. “Because Mark had a much longer history with North Star we offered to share our counseling services with the school if they need,” Miller said. “At this time I believe they are utilizing clergy in the community and their one counselor at school. But if they believe they need, we could send our trained folks to help.”