Mar 292010

The following is a transcription of the sensational story written by Larry Howell that appeared on the front page of the Missoulian on May 2, 1985. This is the “official” version of events, which I’ve written about previously.

A 28 year old man firing a shotgun out the window of a third floor apartment in downtown Missoula kept dozens of police officers at bay for 4&1/2 hours Wednesday before negotiators talked him into surrendering.

No one was hit by the shotgun blasts, but one reportedly came within 3 feet of a scurrying motorcycle officer and at least one other was aimed at officers, authorities say.

The man, identified as John W. Munro surrendered at 8:16 p.m. ending a tense drama that began at 3:41 p.m. when 9-1-1 received a call that shots were being fired into the alley between the 100 blocks of Main and Front Streets.

Munro’s apartment in the Missoula Apartments looks east into that alley, toward the Glacier Building, where police sharpshooters set up with high-power rifles and scopes.

Police Capt. Don Millhouse said little is known about Munro, except that he told negotiators he had recently been released from a Veterans Administration hospital. Several evacuated residents of the Missoula Apartments said Munro was a loner who’d moved in a couple of weeks before.

Millhouse said one witness told authorities that after firing the first shots, Munro yelled “Are the cops coming? I want to go to the hospital.”

Several early news broadcasts reported that Munro was a Vietnam veteran. However, because of Munro’s age – he would have been 18 when U.S. troops evacuated Saigon- Millhouse said it didn’t seem possible for him to have been in Vietnam. Millhouse was unsure how many shots were fired, but estimated it at a dozen, including the two he said were directed at officers.

Motorcycle patrolman Brent Sells said that when he peeked around a corner in the alley Munro fired close enough that Sells felt the sting of flying gravel.

“It sure got my adrenaline going.” Sells said, adding that another officer told him that the blast hit 2-3 feet behind him. He added that Munro had blown out a window in a nearby building when he saw several officers behind it.

Officers from the police and sheriff’s office were involved in the standoff, and they sealed off the entire block. While a negotiating team talked to Munro over the phone, other officers were informed of his actions by the sharpshooters on the Glacier Building’s seventh floor.

The negotiating team included officers from both departments as well as two FBI agents who acted as advisers.

Police had first believed Munro might have some sticks of dynamite, but they turned out to be flares.

Munro also had an ax, and during the latter part of the siege he chopped a hole in his floor and dropped a lit flare onto the bed of the apartment below, starting a fire, Millhouse said.

While firefighters were dousing the fire, Millhouse said Munro fired one shot through the hole. He also fired into the hallway when he opened his door to get a portable phone supplied by negotiators.

Earlier Wednesday a man whose description fit that of Munro had visited two other downtown bars and a bank carrying either a shotgun or shotgun shells and a bottle of pills.

Millhouse said Munro had asked negotiators over the phone for a prescription drug. “He asked the negotiators once for a medicine a doctor had prescribed for him but we didn’t have that kind.”

Munro yelled out the window at one point that he wanted to see his doctor, a man named Jim Crawford whose office was supposedly at St. Patrick Hospital. There is no doctor by the name Jim Crawford listed in Missoula. A little later, Munro yelled “What’s the answer?”

Police Captain Scott Graham yelled back, “We’re working on it.”

Munro was taken to St. Patrick Hospital after his surrender, where he is under heavy guard.

A man identified as John Munro clutches a shotgun as he peers from a third-floor window Wednesday afternoon.

Munro’s window as it appeared in 2010. A higher resolution image can be found here.

Law enforcement officers anxiously watch for John Munro, 28, to reappear at the window.

Officers Bill Wicks, left, and Al Baker escort Munro from the apartments.

 Posted by on 03/29/2010 Growing Up In Montana

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