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Bill Troutwine: The Last Wild Chase; or 4th of July, Montana Style

The Last Wild Chase, is the third part of the three part story titled, My Last Year in Montana. The other two parts, My Last Montana Winter and The Last Bar Fight have already appeared in Columbia Magazine. I have a really great story in mind for Christmas, so as Christmas draws near be watching Columbia Magazine for it. As you know some of my stories are humorous and some are very serious just as life is.
Originally I wrote these stories for my Grandchildren, but at the urging of others, I decided to share some of them, not because I think I'm so interesting, but because Montana is so interesting, and life in Montana is so different compared to what we are use to here. - BILL

By Bill Troutwine

Former Sheriff of Petroleum County, MT; now Constable, Adair Co., KY District 1 On July the 4th, 2003 Donna and I had spent the day relaxing around the house doing nothing. We were getting ready to eat supper (dinner for the politically correct), when someone started beating on the door and yelling like the house was on fire. I went to the door and saw it was Ray (last name intentionally with held). Ray was yelling, "Someone just broke into dad's station." Ray's father owned and operated the only gas station in Winnett.

Winnett is a sleepy little western town

It was still daylight, but Winnett is a sleepy little western town, and every business including the service station was closed for the holiday. There was almost no one in town, and the streets were empty, except for Ray. He was out riding his bike, and saw three guys coming out of his Dad's station. He noticed the window in the front door was broken. Upon seeing Ray the suspects jumped in a van, and took off. Ray made a mad dash for my house to report what he had just seen. My house was located approximately two blocks from the station. We were standing in my side yard, beside my patrol vehicle as Ray was telling me of the incident, when all of a sudden he turned, and pointed at a vehicle going down Main Street past the front of my house and said, "There goes that van now."

An immediate chase began

I immediately jumped in my vehicle, and started in pursuit of the van. When they saw me, they took off. I flipped on my blue lights and the chase was on. As I was leaving the town limits, it dawned on me, that I left in such a hurry, I didn't get my pistol. Not only did I not have my pistol, but I was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt and house shoes. I thought, what an idiot, no cop ever walks out the door dressed like I was, and here I am chasing three burglars, and I don't even have my pistol. Then, I remembered I had a mini-14 (assault rifle) in the back floorboard. Going down a curvy two lane country road at 100 MPH, I was trying to reach over the seat and get the rifle out of the back floorboard. I finally got the rifle and laid it in the seat beside me. I was about 10 miles from town. I started up a hill and around a curve. I was still running 100 MPH, when a deer ran out in front of me. I knew if I turned the wheel to avoid the deer at that speed, I would flip the vehicle, so I got a tight grip on the steering wheel and went straight ahead. I hit the deer head on, and it went flying about 30 feet straight up in the air. I had no idea how much damage was done to my vehicle, but the steering felt fine, and it was still running. My only concern at that point was it may have hit my radiator. If the radiator was punctured, I knew the chase would be over, and they would get away, because there wasn't another officer within 50 miles of us. I was driving a big heavy duty Suburban and they are like a tank. It was not getting hot, so I decided the radiator must be alright. The van had put some distance between us since I hit the deer. So I pushed the accelerator even closer to the floor. I was now doing 115 MPH on a curvy two lane country road. We were about 25 miles from town and coming to the intersection of highway 244 and US 87. Highway 244 was the road we were traveling, and it came to a dead end, intersecting with US 87. They would have to turn either right toward Grass Range, or left toward Roundup, but they were going too fast to turn, so they went straight ahead across a big ditch and into a big open prairie field.

"One step from Hell!"

I rolled to a stop by the ditch, and got out with the rifle. Two of the guys were already out of the van. I leveled my sights on them and told them to lay belly down on the ground with their hands sticking straight out in front of them. As they were lying down, a third man came around from behind the van with a long pipe in his hand, holding it down, and trying to hide it behind his right leg. I immediately swung the rifle toward him and told him to stop, and drop the pipe. At this point there was about 15 feet between us. I had made my mind up, when he reached the ditch which was about 10 feet from me, and if he started to cross it, I was going to shoot him. As he approached the ditch, I said, "Young man, you are about to make your final mistake." He stopped at the very edge of the ditch. I had already applied about half of the pressure needed to disengage the trigger, when he stopped. I told him to lie down and then I relaxed the trigger pressure. I told him, "You just made the wisest decision of your life, because you were only one step from Hell!"

Most frightened handcuffed other two; twist tie handcuffs secured him

I had two sets of handcuffs in the vehicle and some heavy duty plastic zip-ties that I used for cuffs in an emergency. I picked out the youngest and most frightened looking guy and tossed him the two pairs of regular handcuffs. I told him to cuff the other two with their hands behind them. He did as he was told. After he cuffed them, I cuffed his hands behind his back with the zip-ties. I checked the cuffs on the other two to make sure they were secured tightly. I loaded all three in the Suburban, and we headed to jail. I looked at the front of the vehicle. The bumper was slightly bowed, and the grill was broken. Other than that, there was no major damage. A suburban is surely one tough vehicle.

They agreed to be extradited to Minnesota, where they faced greater crimes

All three guys were from Minnesota. Two were in their early twenties and one was 18 years old. They had committed numerous crimes in there home area of Minnesota, and the law there, was catching up with them, so they decided to steal the youngest boy's parents van, and headed west with the intention of winding up in California. They were traveling all back roads, targeting small backwoods villages, robbing and stealing their way across country, when their little crime spree came to an end at a road intersection in Petroleum County, Montana.

Because they were wanted for more serious crimes in Minnesota we offered to drop our charges if the suspects would agree to not fight extradition. They agreed to voluntarily return to Minnesota, so we handed them over to the Minnesota authorities.

Next 4th of July was in Adair County

That was Donna, and my last 4th of July in Montana. Our next 4th of July would be at our new home in Adair County, Kentucky. That was a great fourth too, because it was the first one in a long time that we was able to celebrate with our families, but it was not nearly as exciting as the previous year. - BILL TROUTWINE

This story was posted on 2014-07-04 16:19:35
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