Brothers' quarrel ends in death
Details contained in city court document
November 13, 2013
Brothers Shane and Travis Johnson were living together in a basement on 2nd Avenue until the night Shane Johnson allegedly shot Travis.
The public incident report the Havre Police Department gave to City Judge Margaret Hencz told the story of what happened at the Johnsons’ residence after Travis Johnson was taken to the hospital Saturday.
Havre Fire Department personnel and Havre Police officers were dispatched to the 700 block of 2nd Avenue in response to a 10:04 p.m. call from Donna Biem, the Johnsons’ mother, who said Travis Johnson was unconscious and was not sure if he was breathing.
This call was not listed in the police department dispatch log.
Officers arrived and assisted Johnson, who had trauma to the left side of his head and was bleeding and barely breathing. He was transported to Northern Montana Hospital and shortly after pronounced dead.
Emergency medical technicians suspected Johnson’s death was caused by a gunshot wound to the left side of his face. The weapon used was a small caliber. The hospital also identified the wound as a gunshot.
“It was later determined at autopsy that Travis had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head,” the affidavit says. “The bullet had entered in the area of the left cheek and had gone into the brain. The bullet that was recovered from Travis was consistent with a .22 caliber.”
The affidavit reports that Travis Johnson and Shane Johnson are brothers and occupied rooms in the basement of the house. Donna and Robert Biem live in the same house.
Havre Police Sgt. Michael Labaty, who wrote the affidavit, wrote he saw blood smears on the floor of the living room and “the scene had the appearance that a struggle had taken place.”
Labaty reported he saw more blood drops on the kitchen and on the stairs that led down to the basement where the brothers lived.
“As I got to the bottom of the stairs, I observed a puddle of what appeared to be blood,” Labaty wrote. “The puddle was just outside the entrance to a basement bedroom.”
The puddle of blood marked where Travis Johnson was found when the first officers and EMTs arrived at the house. This was a few feet from Shane Johnson’s bedroom.
Officers then searched the basement and found Shane Johnson lying in his bedroom. Labaty ordered him to show him his hands and “as he pulled them from underneath the comforter, I could see a substance consistent with blood on both hands.”
Labaty approached Shane Johnson and pulled the comforter away from him.
“His knees were drawn up in a fetal position,” Labaty reported. “Near his knees was a cloth gun case. … Near the gun case was an ammunition magazine for a .22 caliber weapon. The magazine was loaded with .22 long rifle ammunition. I also observed a semi-automatic .22 caliber pistol on the floor.”
There was blood on Shane Johnson’s clothes and face, and he appeared to be bleeding from the nose when officers handcuffed him. Shane Johnson said his nose was broken, but refused medical attention.
“As (Officer) Cassidy escorted Shane Johnson, he declared that it was all good and that it was self-defense,” Labaty wrote. “He told Cassidy that Travis had hit him and broken his nose. Travis pushed him down the stairs and that is when the gun went off.”
When officers searched the room, they found three spent .22 slugs and holes in the basement walls.
Officers learned Shane Johnson had an outstanding arrest warrant and arrested him after transporting him to the police station.
Shane Johnson was then transported to the Hill County Detention Center and “held pending review and further charges for Deliberate Homicide.”
In a brief hearing at the detention center Tuesday, City Judge Margaret Hencz read Shane Johnson his rights. He requested a preliminary hearing and asked that an attorney be named to represent him.
His bond was set at $250,000, and he was read his conditions of release.
His preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 20, but if Hill County Attorney Gina Dahl files charges in the State District Court, the preliminary hearing will be negated.