By Tim Eberly
The Hill County Attorney's Office has charged a man with attempted deliberate homicide in a shooting that injured another man during the waning hours of a Christmas party in a North Havre trailer.
Wilmer "Hawkeye" Hart, 51, who moved to Havre several months ago, is being held on $50,000 bond in the Hill County Detention Center. He faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison if convicted.
Three Hill County sheriff's deputies were dispatched at 1:27 a.m. Wednesday to a trailer in Head's Trailer Court where 38-year-old Randall Murphy had been shot in the left side of the chest.
When deputies arrived, Murphy's housemate and close friend, Tammie Herrera, directed them to the trailer, where Murphy was slumped face-down while kneeling at a couch, according to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon in Hill County Justice Court.
Acting Sheriff Don Brostrom said Murphy was conscious.
An ambulance took Murphy to Northern Montana Hospital. His condition has been upgraded from serious to fair although he remains in the intensive care unit, hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell said.
Shortly after Murphy was taken to the hospital, three deputies and a Havre police sergeant were dispatched to a nearby trailer after a woman reported that Hart was hiding in her shed, the criminal complaint said. According to the complaint, Hart had knocked on the woman's door and said he was hiding from the police because he shot someone. When the woman told Hart that he could not stay with her, he hid in her shed, the complaint said.
The police sergeant shouted verbal commands to Hart, who opened the shed door and stepped outside. Deputies handcuffed Hart and took him to the detention center at 2 a.m.
Another man, 47-year-old Leonard Douglas Owen of Great Falls, was arrested in connection with the same incident on a charge of obstructing a peace officer when he did not disclose accurate information about the shooting, Brostrom said.
At 3 a.m., deputies obtained a search warrant allowing them to search the premises, surrounding buildings and trailers and the yard of the trailer park. No weapon has been found.
The sheriff's office believes Murphy was shot with a .22-calibre firearm, a gun that a man at the scene told deputies Hart owned, the criminal complaint said. A deputy spoke with a nurse at the hospital's emergency room Wednesday, and the nurse confirmed that Murphy's chest wounds were more consistent with a .22-handgun rather than a shotgun, which was originally reported to dispatchers, the complaint said.
The shooting capped an altercation that started when only four people remained at the party. Hart threw a beer bottle at a woman, which spurred confrontational comments from Murphy and possibly Owen, said court documents.
Hart and Murphy went into the trailer's bedroom, where they fought and Murphy beat Hart up, according to Herrera.
Soon after, Murphy came into the living room with the gunshot wound, the criminal complaint said. During an interview at the detention center, Hart, whose left eye was swollen and bruised, said Murphy and Owen had been obnoxious for most of the evening and he was tired of people being in his house, the court document said.
Hart said he had fought with Murphy and Owen, according to the complaint, and said he threw a beer down at the carpet not at the woman. After he threw the beer down, some of the beer splashed onto the woman, which sparked a fight involving all three men, Hart said in the complaint.
All of the involved parties are transients who ride the freight trains together, Herrera said.