Gallatin County Sheriff/Coroner’s Office


On October 27th, 2012,  at approximately 2230 hrs, the Gallatin County Coroner’s office was dispatched to a death that occurred in Three Forks, MT.  The Coroner’s office determined that a 55 year old male, identified as Fred Vandolah, had died as a result of a gunshot wound to the torso. The coroner’s office has determined the manner of death to be an accident.

Four suspects arrested in connection to Belgrade home invasion

On October 29, 2012 at approximately 2:15 a.m., Belgrade Police Officers responded to a west side residence as they had received a report that several unknown persons had forced their way into the residence and assaulted the occupant.  The victim sustained only minor injuries and refused medical attention.

At approximately 2:25 a.m., Belgrade Police Officers conducted a traffic stop on Bollinger Road with a vehicle matching the description given by the victim.  Three adult males and one juvenile male were taken into custody for questioning, and ultimately charged with the crime of Aggravated Burglary.  The three adult males were transported to the Gallatin County Detention Center where they were held pending their initial appearance in Justice Court.

This was an isolated incident and this case remains under investigation.


Sergeant Dustin Lensing

Detective Division

Belgrade Police Department

Ph: 406-388-4262

Back to Back Weekend Rescues for Sheriff’s Search and Rescue

Lost hunters Saturday

Skier injured in avalanche Sunday 

(Bozeman) – Hunters lost in bad weather Saturday and a skier injured Sunday kept Sheriff’s Search and Rescue workers very busy most of the weekend.

SAR responded Saturday night to the report of a pair of hunters missing in the Olson Creek area, east of the Bridgers, south of Brackett Creek.  The hunters lost their way during a snow storm.  When they were 10 hours overdue, The Sheriff was called.

Searchers spent the night attempting to locate the pair who were not prepared for making fire or spending the night outdoors.  To keep warm, the hunters kept walking throughout the night.  They traveled north and ended up in the Skunk Creek area Sunday morning.

SAR workers located the pair at about 5:00 this morning.  Other than being cold and wet, they were not injured. 

Late Sunday morning a party of three skiing in the Hollywood Basin area between Fairy Lake and Frasier Lake, north of Bridger Bowl, were caught in an avalanche.  After they were able to extricate themselves from the slide, they discovered that one of the skiers had suffered a hip injury that made it unable for him to walk out of the area. 

20 SAR volunteers with snowmobiles, four-wheelers and skis deployed to the area and two rescue skiers were flown to the search area by Summit Air Ambulance. 

At just after 2:00 p.m. Sunday, SAR personnel got to the skiers and began patient care.  The 53-year old male was found to have injuries to a hip and a knee.  Two hours later SAR workers carried the patient out of the area by litter and 4×4 truck to meet up with AMR ambulance which then transported the patient to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

“This is all about good outcomes,” said Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.  “Despite the fact that our SAR personnel basically worked back-to-back calls and were up all night, the hunters and the skiers made it home. Once again a big thanks to our SAR volunteers for all their hard work.”

“And a big thank you to Summit Air Ambulance for their help today as well,” said Sheriff Gootkin.

Sheriff Gootkin says there are a couple of important safety messages that come out of these incidents: For hunters, as we get into the winter season in Southwest Montana, anyone spending time in the back-country, you need extra clothing, extra food, and a way to make fire.  Also, a fully charged cell phone is essential along with a GPS so you can know where you are.

And if you do get turned around in the back-country, stay put and make a fire.  It will keep you warm and will make you visible to our searchers.

As for the skiers, they knew where they were, and they had good communications.  SAR personnel got to them within a few hours.

“Look at the contrast,” said Sheriff Gootkin. “It took SAR personnel most of the night to find the hunters…in the case of the skiers, we got resources to them in a matter of hours.  Good preparation ahead of time can help us get to you quickly,” said Sheriff Gootkin.


 Photos courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.  


Gallatin County Sheriff/Coroner’s Office


  On Friday, October 26, 2012, at approximately 5:00 a.m., the Gallatin County 911 Center received a call from the Trailways Bus Company.  They reported that a male had become disorderly on the bus and they had dropped the male off near Mile-Post Marker 282 on I-90. 

  At approximately 5:22 a.m., the 911 Center received a call from a residence on Carpenter Lane near Logan, MT of a criminal trespass in progress.

  At approximately 5:28 a.m., the 911 Center received a second call from the same residence.  The resident(s) was calling to report that that trespasser had been shot by a resident at that location. 

  Deputies from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Fire, and EMS personnel arrived on scene.  Upon arrival they found a male subject with a gunshot wound who was treated and taken into custody.  The male subject was then transported to the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. 

  The incident is currently under investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Detective Division.

Gallatin County Sheriff/Coroner’s Office


The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office would like to recognize a significant achievement of the Missouri River Drug Task Force (MRDTF). Recently, the Board of Directors for MRDTF nominated them for the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Rural Outstanding Task Force of the year award.

 For many years, the MRDTF has been an extremely successful collaboration of multiple agencies. In 2011, coordinated efforts between the local, state and federal agents along with the United States Attorney’s Office, the Missouri River HIDTA Drug Task Force targeted nine major drug trafficking organizations (DTO’s).  Five of those organizations were disrupted and one major DTO was dismantled.  Three of the targeted cases were approved and designated under Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) status.  The agency seized $117,272.00 in assets and recovered 33 weapons.  These are significant results for this agency and reflect on the commitment of the MRDTF Board, Task Force Commander, agents and US Attorney’s Office to pursue HIDTA cases to the highest level.

 This is a unique task force unit in that the task force covers six counties, has six local parent agencies to include: Gallatin County, the Bozeman Police Department, Lewis & Clark County, the Helena Police Department, Park County, and Broadwater County.  Each of these agencies provide personnel and have a jurisdiction spanning over a hundred miles between key cities/towns.  It is not feasible for all the agents to be collocated in one office due to the distance and time it would take to respond to calls or investigate cases.  The agents instead operate out of offices within their county and coordinate or assist other offices as needed. 

 There are currently seven local agents, one state agent and two dedicated federal agents.  Four local agents and one HSI agent primarily investigate cases in the southern and western counties and three local, one state DCI agent and one FBI agent investigate cases in the central and northern counties.  While the emphasis for the investigators is to focus on targeting and investigating DTO operations locally and expanding out to the source location, our agents simultaneously carry an extensive caseload of street level investigations as well.  This is no small undertaking given the very limited manpower assigned to the drug units in each county.  The agents recorded 151 felony state and federal arrests in 2011 with numerous suspects being indicted or are pending indictment in 2012 from investigations that began in 2010 and 2011.  Additionally, it should be noted that the two local agents in the Helena HIDTA office were in their first year of service with the task force as was the Task Force Commander.  That is an incredible testament to the level of communication, dedication and cooperation of the unit commander, local state and federal agents.

 The MRDTF agents have coordinated with various levels of out-of-state law enforcement to assist them with suspect identification, information sharing, intelligence, and use of Confidential Informants in an effort to assist them in developing a case or gaining critical avenues into a known DTO. 

 The TF Commander and MRDTF agents have clearly demonstrated exemplary interagency cooperation and support of the HIDTA program. Their efforts have resulted in a substantial reduction in the amount of Mehtamphetamine and Cocaine availability locally.

 We are proud to announce that the Missouri River Drug Task Force has been selected as the 2012 Rocky Mountain HIDTA Rural Task Force of the Year.


All Gallatin County Fire Districts Allow Open Burning

For Immediate Release             Contact: Kerry O’Connell
10/23/2012 12:00 PM               Phone: 406-582-2092

As of noon today, all fire districts in Gallatin County are allowing residents to activate and purchase burn permits. “This decision was made following the moisture we received last night and this morning, as well as the forecast for more moisture predicted for this week,” said Kerry O’Connell, Gallatin County Fire Warden.

Before they burn, residents are required to purchase burn permits either at or at their local fire department.

Gallatin County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan Approved by FEMA

GCEM Header Image

Media Release 

            For Immediate Release                              Contact:  Patrick Lonergan

            Media Release No.  121022-01                  Phone:  406-582-2395

            10/22/2012 1:19 PM                       

Gallatin County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan Approved by FEMA

Bozeman, MT – Gallatin County agencies recently received notification that their 2012 Hazard Mitigation Plan revision had been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  According to Patrick Lonergan, Emergency Manager, “Having an approved mitigation plan allows agencies to participate in federal mitigation programs to minimize the impacts of future disasters.”  Mitigation projects typically focus on making public infrastructure more resiliant to damage resulting from disasters by correcting known weaknesses before an event occurs. 

Currently several agencies in Gallatin County have mitigation projects underway in which generators are being retrofitted into existing facilities.  “With these facilities now having emergency power they can continue to serve their community’s during events resulting in power outages,” stated Emergency Manager Patrick Lonergan.

The process of updating the Hazard Mitigation Plan started in mid 2011 with participation from the public and representatives from local, state, and federal agencies.  Over several public meetings the plan was reviewed and the community’s mitigation priorities were verified and updated.  As a result the incorporated communities of Belgrade, Bozeman, Three Forks, West Yellowstone and unincorporated Gallatin County are now recognized participants in an approved mitigation plan.


Search and Rescue Fills it’s Tag on Opening Day

(Bozeman, Mont.) Search and Rescue Crews were successful on opening day of hunting season near Red Mountain in Northern Gallatin County.  A 62 year old Kalispell man became separated from his four Gallatin County hunting partners about 2:30 p.m. Saturday.  The hunting party made efforts to find him until about 9:00 p.m. then they came back to Bozeman and at 11:30 p.m. notified the Sheriff’s Office.  SAR teams led by the Sheriff’s Office searched the area on both side of mountain.  Summit Air Ambulance using advanced night vision equipment with SAR members on board located the hunter near the south fork.  He had built a fire and the team was able to land a short distance away.  He was lost but unharmed and given a ride to his truck.

Sheriff Gootkin stated that there are still many areas of Gallatin County where there is no cell phone coverage.  He recommends that back country users be prepared with good old fashioned map and compass as well as supplies like fire starter, extra food and water.  In this case it turned out well.  In this country sometimes bad things happen to regular people and when that happens we are glad to have the high quality and dedication of our SAR volunteers.    #####