GREAT FALLS – A coroner’s jury ruled Tuesday that a Great Falls man did not die by criminal means in an incident involving Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies in August 2018.
A coroner’s inquest is required by Montana law when a person dies in police presence.
On August 24th 2018, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office deputies were searching for 46-year-old Andy Anderson at a residence on Country Lane off of Bootlegger Trail just north of Great Falls.
Deputies wanted to talk to Anderson about a harassment complaint reported at another location.
Upon contact with deputies, Anderson produced a firearm and shot himself. He was taken to Benefis Health System and later died.
During Tuesday’s inquest, jurors took only a few minutes to unanimously decide deputies were not at fault during the incident.
Jurors heard from one of the two responding deputies, Deputy Kasey Whitsitt, who testified that when she and Deputy Steve Fox arrived on scene, Anderson was initially out of his vehicle.
Whitsitt said Anderson pointed the gun at the deputies before entering his vehicle and taking his own life.
“From my view, Andy was on the driver side of his truck, he was getting into his truck and pointed through the door frame what appeared to be a pistol at us,” Whittsitt said.
A medical examiner from Missoula testified Anderson died of a single gunshot wound and the manner of death was ruled suicide.
Division of Criminal Investigation agent Bruce McDermott, the lead investigator on the case, said the evidence confirmed the two deputies were not involved in the death.
“In a case like this, you never in this career say cut and dry. You never say slam dunk. You never assume anything. You handle every case with the same significance with the next case. But in this particular situation, you have that proverbial fly on the wall,” McDermott said.
During the inquest, jurors watched a dash cam recording from the CCSO deputies’ car and were shown a handwritten will by Anderson that was found in his truck during the investigation.
“This decedent stepped out of his vehicle, or was out of his vehicle, put his handgun, you can even see that. You can see him point a dark object through the corner before the door was closed at the officer, step inside and immediately disappear from view,” McDermott said.
A toxicology report was performed five days after Anderson’s death that tested negative.
“It’s as good as it gets as far as demonstrating there was nobody in proximity to the decedent. He exited the vehicle, he remained in the vehicle, he took his own life in the vehicle. That’s just about as good as it gets in the investigative world,” McDermott said.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News