High-speed chase circles St. Ignatius, ends in arrest
ST. IGNATIUS – On dry dirt roads outside of town, where more cows and chickens usually roam than cars, a white sedan hit speeds of up to 90 miles an hour as a line of police vehicles pursued it.
The incident started on Olsen Road at about 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, when Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Terrance Rosenbaum noticed a vehicle without a front bumper or two brake lights with a temporary license plate. The trooper turned on his emergency lights and attempted to make a traffic stop but was ignored. “It was very apparent that the vehicle wasn’t going to stop,” he said.
Rosenbaum said he saw the driver throw what looked like a baggie out the window as the car sped away. Police officers later searched for the item but were unable to find it. After the failed traffic stop, a 30-mile long pursuit began.
Rosenbaum was assisted by law enforcement with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Police and the St. Ignatius Police Department.
The speed limit on the back roads is posted at 35 mph due to the rural nature of the roads and the possibility of hazardous conditions and wildlife, farm animals, potholes, mud, rocks and ice. Traveling at nearly three-times faster than the allowed speed, the suspect raced past homes and people on a meandering route for about half an hour. Lake County Dispatch helped keep the different agencies coordinate during the pursuit.
After ignoring the traffic stop on Olsen Road, the vehicle proceeded onto Logan Road and then went west on Post Creek Road then to Ninepipe Road and back to Olsen Road.
At one point, the driver covered his face with a bandana. The high-speed chase continued onto Fish Hatchery Road and then around Dublin Gulch Road and down Old Freight Road to Sabine Road.
Between Sabine Road and U.S. Highway 93, St. Ignatius Police Chief Matthew Connelly’s patrol vehicle was almost hit by the suspect. “I don’t think he intended to try and hit me. I could see him rummaging around for something.”
The vehicle was on U.S. Highway 93 going south for a stretch before turning left onto Old U.S. Highway 93 and going back towards St. Ignatius and then turning onto St. Marys Lake Road.
The vehicle continued moving towards Mission Dam Road and then north onto Hillside Road and turning onto Lemery Road and then Foothill Road, which is where a civilian tried to help stop the vehicle by putting a car in the road.
“Many citizens have scanners and they listen in and follow along with the pursuit and want to help,” Rosenbaum. “We appreciate the thought, but the best thing people can do in a situation like this is to stay off the roads. We don’t want the public to put themselves in harm’s way.”
The suspect continued driving on Foothill Road for a few miles and turned at Mission Dam Road where a lush forest of pine trees grow around the reservoir. The car attempted some off-road driving and ended up smashing into a tree.
The chase continued on foot through the trees for about a mile until a 22-year old male suspect was caught and arrested in a field.
“It was a collaborated effort to apprehend the suspect, including dispatch,” Rosenbaum said. “It couldn’t have been done if we didn’t work together.”
Despite one civilian getting involved and several people walking along the road, no one was hurt. “The suspect endangered a lot of people by failing to stop at a simple traffic stop,” Rosenbaum said.
According to the Lake County Detention report for Jan. 30, Shonko K. Christy-Lacounte, 22, was arrested for a parole violation; operating without current registration; possession of dangerous drugs, marijuana; possession of paraphernalia; no liability insurance; fleeing from and eluding police; driving without a valid driver’s license; failure to wear a seatbelt; a stop sign violation; operating a vehicle without lights; criminal endangerment; and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Lake County Chief Deputy Attorney James Lapotka said on Monday, Feb. 3, that the evidence will be reviewed to determine if the criminal endangerment charge is a felony. Lapotka said the driver, identified as Christy-Lacounte, stated at the time of arrest that he was on methamphetamine, heroine and THC. He also had a marijuana grinder in the vehicle and a small baggie of marijuana.
Before the Jan. 30 incident, Christy-Lacounte was on a conditional release from the Montana Department of Corrections for a theft charge from a 2016 incident. Before his release, he was serving a three-year commitment to the DOC and was committed in 2017.