BOZEMAN (AP) — The 56-year-old Three Forks man suspected of shooting and killing a Montana Highway Patrol trooper Wednesday was a dog-trainer and hunter who mostly kept to himself, according to friends and family.
Errol Brent Bouldin had been troubled since he was bit by a rattlesnake five years ago while hunting in Arizona, his sister-in-law Glynda Bouldin, of Belgrade, said Thursday. He had to be revived several times before reaching the hospital and suffered brain damage from the trauma.
"That's when his life sort of changed," Glynda said.
Officer stopped to investigate truck
Bouldin is accused of killing 23-year-old Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David DeLaittre, of Three Forks, late Wednesday afternoon. DeLaittre had stopped to investigate a green Ford F-250 pickup truck parked, but still running, in the middle of Montana Highway 2. The truck belonged to Bouldin.
The two exchanged gunfire and the trooper was killed, Gallatin County Sheriff Jim Cashell said Thursday. About four hours later, police found Bouldin dead in his truck in the Crow Creek area south of Townsend.
Bouldin grew up in Logan and graduated from Manhattan High School in 1973. He had several siblings and two adult daughters.
A high school track star
As a teenager, Bouldin ran track and field. He made it to the state competition for the 220-yard dash as a high school junior.
After high school, Bouldin worked as a union carpenter until he started training Labrador retrievers for bird hunting, said his ex-wife Debra Bouldin. He was an outdoorsman who hunted waterfowl with his own dog.
"People wanted him to train their dogs because he was so good at it," Debra said.
Bouldin moved to Arizona in the mid-1990s so he could work with the dogs in the winter, she said.
After the snakebite, he and Debra divorced. Bouldin moved to Three Forks in 2006.
On Thursday, the shades were drawn in the two-story yellow house Bouldin rented just a few blocks from Three Forks' Main Street. Bouldin hadn't spoken to his brother, Glynda or Debra in three years, the women said.
Was pretty much a loner
"He was pretty much a loner when he came back here," said Three Forks resident Tracey Setzer, whose family also trained dogs. "He enjoyed hunting and fishing — pretty much with his dogs."
People who knew Bouldin said he wasn't mean. He was confused.
"He did not hate cops," Debra said. "He had good friends down here (in Arizona) and one of them is a SWAT team person. One of them is a detective now. I have no earthly idea how this happened. That's the question we're all asking right now."
Dave Stanton, one of Bouldin's neighbors, said Bouldin often came over to chat with him while he worked in his garden.
"I got the impression that he didn't have too many people to talk to," Stanton said. "He was one of those guys you know that could just talk your arm off."
Bouldin told stories, mostly about his dog, hunting and the snakebite, often repeating himself, Stanton said.
'...A little different than most folks'
"He wasn't really an upbeat, happy guy," Stanton said. "But he was always friendly to me. I never had any problem with him other than that he was just a little different than most folks. This just blew me away."
A warrant had been issued for Bouldin's arrest after he failed to appear in court for a drunken driving offense in Belgrade in 2008, Belgrade Police Chief E.J. Clark told the Belgrade News. The warrant was still outstanding Wednesday.
After the shootout, when police began searching for Bouldin, his family members called to offer whatever assistance they could, Glynda said.
"Our deepest sorrow and our prayers are with the officer's family, first and foremost," she said. "We're still in shock.
"We will probably grieve quietly because we want the patrolman's family to be able to grieve in their way as well," she said.