Blackfeet member shot, killed by Missoula police after chase
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Missoula Police released on Friday the name of the 21-year-old man who was shot and killed by a police officer after police say he fled a traffic stop.
Brendon T. Galbreath, a member of the Blackfeet Nation who lived in Missoula, died in a hospital Thursday.
Galbreath’s brother, Terrance LaFromboise, said Friday that the family had received statements from law enforcement officials following his death that did not match up with information publicly released by Missoula police following the incident.
Missoula police said Thursday that Galbreath led an officer on a pursuit through Missoula and then fired a gun at the officer in the early morning hours on Thursday.
The incident began when the officer stopped a vehicle because the driver was believed to be under the influence. Police said Galbreath accelerated and attempted to flee during the stop.
Galbreath was pursued through downtown Missoula. Police said he posed a public safety risk, driving at high speed and failing to stop for red lights and putting pedestrians at risk.
When the pursuit ended, Galbreath fired a handgun and the officer returned fire, police said in a statement.
Galbreath was taken to the hospital where he later died.
The name of the officer, who has three years of law enforcement experience, has not been released.
Galbreath’s brother, Terrance LaFromboise, said the police account of the events that led to Galbreath’s death don’t add up, leaving the family with many unanswered questions.
In a recording of communications between police officers during the chase and shooting obtained by The Associated Press, a police officer can be heard saying the victim shot himself.
“Self-inflicted gunshot with shots fired,” an officer tells dispatch. “We need medical now.”
“Did he shoot or did we?” an officer asks.
“Both,” another officer responds.
A spokesperson for the Missoula Police Department referred questions to the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, which is investigating the shooting.
In response to a question about the family’s concerns over contradictory information they received from Missoula police following the incident, the Montana Department of Justice said findings from the investigation will be turned over to the Missoula County attorney once the investigation is complete.
“A firearm was recovered. There is nothing else to report at this time,” said Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for the department.
A spokesperson for the Montana Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a phone call and email on Friday.
LaFromboise said people who knew his brother find it hard to believe that he had a gun or knew how to use one. “We as a family have never seen him fire a gun. He has a strong stance against guns,” he said.
LaFromboise, a social worker, said he had spoken to his brother about mental health last week and did not get any indication his brother would want to hurt himself or others.
Galbreath was the salutatorian of his class in Browning high school and had been an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Family members described him in social media posts as soft-spoken, intelligent and kind.
He had met former first lady Michelle Obama during a trip to Washington, D.C., through a pre-college program for Montana students and had participated in summer programs through Indians Into Medicine at the University of North Dakota.
He moved to Missoula during the coronavirus pandemic, after several of his relatives contracted COVID-19 and died. He was working at an AT&T store and was planning to apply to study at the University of Montana. He wanted to study medicine or engineering, LaFromboise said.