MILES CITY – The Miles City Police Department has opened a criminal investigation into a former longtime Miles City high school athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing possibly hundreds of boys decades ago.
Miles City Police Chief Doug Columbik confirmed to MTN News on Monday that in addition to working with the Division of Criminal Investigations within the Montana Department of Justice and the Custer County Attorney’s Office, his agency has also interviewed James ‘Doc’ Jensen.
“We are dropping everything else to work on this,” said Columbik.
A lawsuit filed Friday in Custer County District Court alleges Jensen sexually abused males students at Custer County High School in Miles City starting in the 1970s until he left employment with the school district in 1998.
The lawsuit identifies at least 19 plaintiffs by initials and another 1 – 200 as “Joe Doe” victims who have yet to be identified.
The lawsuit alleges Jensen, who was known by the nickname “Doc,” used that position of trust to sexually abuse male students between the 7th and 12th grades.
The sexual abuse is said to have happened both on school grounds and in several homes in Miles City where Jensen lived at different times, the lawsuit states.
Columbik also said he has a group of investigators working the case to identify victims and interview them.
He said his officers did do an interview with Jensen on Friday.
The chief said he’s sparing no resources on the case.
“It’s going to be two captains with over 50 years combined experience and me with a couple of my sergeants,” said Columbik. “My most experienced officers handling this.”
However, the criminal case won’t wrap up anytime soon, according to Columbik. He said they must work fast because of the statute of limitations. His officers will compile their findings and hand them over to the Custer County attorney.
“This will be a long-term process,” he said.
Meanwhile, Johns Barnes, spokesman for the Montana Department of Justice, also confirmed Monday to Q2 News that his agency has resources working this case.
“We’ve got an investigator working on this,” said Barnes.
On Saturday, at the request of the Custer County Attorney’s Office, Attorney General Tim Fox announced he directed the Montana Department of Justice to provide investigative assistance with allegations recently made against Jensen.
Barnes said they do have people manning a newly formed hotline for victims.
“It was just set up on Saturday. It is answered by a person and it’s very explicit for what we are looking for,” said Barnes.
The Montana Department of Justice established that hotline for any alleged survivors of James Jensen to report allegations and provide contact information for investigative follow-up. Citizens who feel they may have been victimized may call 406-438-2354 or email: MCSupport@mt.gov
-Andrea Lutz reporting for MTN