GREAT FALLS – Benjamin Tucker Staples, the man who has spent three days on the thin ice of the Missouri River, was taken into custody on Monday at 6:15 p.m.
According to Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards, Staples is now at Benefis Health System undergoing an evaluation.
Edwards said Staples had made statements to both himself and Great Falls Fire Rescue that were concerning.
“I was very concerned for his wellbeing and I felt that he could bring harm to himself and or others because his actions were drawing people on the ice,” Edwards said.
After presenting the case to the Cascade County Attorney’s Office, a request for action was filed. A request for action is an involuntary commit for evaluation.
Edwards stated that Staples has a long criminal history and while there were no records of violence, some records out of Utah were concerning such as the stalking charges.
“He has a lot of criminal trespass to properties,” Edwards said. “In Utah, Idaho, Arkansas, and he also has a interfering with government operations out of Arkansas.”
Edwards continued that statements made by people at the river also raised concerns.
“He made statements that he was going to run if we tried to apprehend him,” Edwards said. “He would run and jump in the river so we didn’t need that, we didn’t need all of the people on the ice.”
Edwards thanked the Great Falls Police Department, Great Falls Fire Rescue, and his deputies for putting together a successful plan.
No one was injured while taking Staples into custody.
“I’m glad it worked out,” Edwards said. “I could sense this gentleman had some potential mental health issues that were a few red flags for me so I’m glad we got him off there. I really truly believe that if we went out on the ice in uniform, he would have jumped into the water.”
A Search and Rescue crew wearing proper gear will collect Staples’ property and keep the items safe in storage unless there’s anything illegal.
According to Edwards, there are no pending criminal charges and Staples will not be extradited to Arkansas on one of his charges.
(March 5, 2018, 5:13 p.m.) The name of the man who has spent three days on the thin ice of the Missouri River in Great Falls is Benjamin Tucker Staples.
Staples took to the ice on Saturday morning, causing Search & Rescue crews to don their full gear in preparation for a possible rescue. However, Staples refused any assistance.
Ryan Villines created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help Staples. The page states, in part:
Ben says that he is originally from Arkansas, and that he made his way to Great Falls about five months ago. He said he knows a few people in town, and has/had a job, and even perhaps a girlfriend, but that things have gone downhill and that has led to him living homelessly around town. He recently built himself a shelter and a small camp of sorts near where Central Ave crosses the Missouri River, and spent part of his days making drawings in the snow and the ice that he knew many of would enjoy seeing, but he claims that he was recently harassed by people and police to the point that he was forced to move from his encampment, and the only “Home” he knew. He was so disappointed when told that he was going to have to abandon the area that he took what few items he needed strictly to survive, moved out into the middle of the frozen river where nobody would bother him, and burned his prior encampment down. Thus the frozen rivertop is where he sits today.
His former girlfriend, Naomi Brown, said he’s originally from Arkansas, which corresponds with a 2001 bankruptcy filing in Arkansas in his name obtained by MTN News.
Brown said that Staples has done “stunts” such as this in other locations – most notably in 2011, when he was charged with stalking the president of the Mormon Church in Utah; he served time in jail for it and was placed on probation.
Brown said that Staples believes he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Brown added that he does a lot of snow art and is a really good worker. She also said that while he’s got a temper, she does want to see him fulfill his dream of opening another homeless shelter where the old Angel Room used to be.
She added that he’s not having a mental breakdown, just that he has a funny sense of humor.
Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards said with the temperatures warming up, he is starting to worry for Staples’ safety – and the safety of others.
“I’m concerned that we’re going to have a recovery, and not a rescue, at this point. People, please listen, do not go out on this ice. It is not stable. And then when you go out there like this then we have to come get you, then you put a whole bunch of other people at risk.”
Edwards added that they will continue to monitor Staples, and asked that the public leave him alone – and not to venture out onto the ice.