Powder River Examiner -

30 Years Ago


Thursday, June 30, 1988

Deputy wounded by accidental shotgun blast

David Lancaster, part-time Powder River County Deputy Sheriff and full-time GVW officer, is recovering from a deep gash to his forehead, caused when a shotgun accidentally discharged.

The incident occurred in the sheriff’s office courthouse office, around 10 p.m. last Thursday evening.

According to a report filed by Sheriff Don Pertuit, volunteer deputy Royce Robins was at the time cleaning a Winchester Model 94 pump shotgun, loaded with size 00 buckshot. He was seated behind Pertuit’s desk. Lancaster was standing slightly to his right, and Undersheriff Ken Rogge was seated across the desk. Pertuit was in the dispatcher’s lobby a few feet away, behind a glassed-in wall.

Pertuit said that Robins was attempting to eject a round when the gun jammed. When he applied force the jammed mechanism freed, the pump came forward, and the gun discharged. Robins, according to the sheriff, had the gun pointed “in a safe direction,” towards the floor of the office.

The load of buckshot, however, hit the concrete floor under the office carpet at such an angle that shrapnel, traveling at a very high speed, scattered across the northwest corner of the room, perforating the wall in numerous places. Lancaster was struck mid-forehead, towards his hairline.

He was transported to the Powder River County Medical Clinic where three pieces of lead were removed and five stitches placed to close a wound. A fourth piece of lead was not removed.

None of the other men were struck.

Pertuit said that in his report that the incident was “completely accidental” and that Robins would in no way be held responsible. “He had the gun pointed down in a safe position,” said Pertuit. “It was not his fault that it discharged.”

Pertuit added that he was “extremely thankful” that the incident was not more serious.

Interviews were conducted and a report has been filed with state officials saying that the shooting was accidental. An independent investigation will be conducted by another agency.

Fire burns Bill Lambert home, threatens others

A fire which destroyed the trailer home of Billy Ray Lambert of Hammond at about 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon, spread to the surrounding prairie and in the strong and gusting winds, with thermometers registering from 103 to 108 degrees, immediately became a strong inferno.

Entire families of the community were on the fire line for 24 hours, either actively fighting fire of bringing supplies, with some of them released for a break late Monday afternoon.

Lambert was away from home at the time of the fire. It was seen by Alvin Walker who was doing some repair work for Charles Gosselin. The strong winds kept changing from southeast to south to southwest, sweeping first the Lambert place, about three miles north of Hammond; through Gosselins; the Harold Draine place where Harold Jr lives; through parts of the Gnerer land and threatening the home buildings, then into the Hank Williams Ranch, operated by Jerry and Gloria Rosencranz.

The Gnerer family, it is said, had evacuated their home when the wind changed and Harry Weeden arrived to blade a fire guard. Weeden said if he had arrived fifteen minutes later the Gnerer home would probably burned.

The fire was somewhat contained at about 3 o’clock Monday morning, when the wind changed and set it raging off again. An estimate of “a mile wide and a half wide and at least ten miles long” was given. Many sitters were still watching the burn on Monday night and putting out hot spots.

The cause of the fire at the Lambert trailer is unknown. In heat of 103 to 114 degrees, as June of 1988 is experiencing, a fire might ignite from a flammable material too near to glass which the sun has heated to the point of flame.

No clues as to who abandoned pot cache

The Powder River County Sheriff’s Department still has no leads as to the identity of the person or persons who abandoned nearly one million dollars’ worth of marijuana near Boyes last week.

Around 800 pounds of the drug, one of the largest caches ever found in Montana, was recovered by Sheriff’s Department officials last Sunday. Sheriff Don Peruit said that the cache was found after he responded to an anonymous caller who had reported a number of “suspicious looking” boxes alongside of the Boyes to Belle Creek Road.

Pertuit said that a conservative “street value” placed the monetary worth of the marijuana at between $800,000 and $900,000 but that a more precise value would be over $1 million.

The randomly piled boxes numbered over 25 and varied in size from ten inches by ten inches to nearly four feet high by several feet across. The marijuana inside was either wrapped in cellophane or in garbage bags. The boxes were marked with U-Haul company emblems.

Pertuit, with assistance from Undersheriff Ken Rogge and Deputy David Lancaster, collected the marijuana as evidence. It was later turned over to Coal Counties Crime Task Force officials and is being stored at an undisclosed location in Billings. It may be brought back to Broadus where it will be destroyed, in 60 to 90 days.

“I think that it should have stayed here but with the county budget cuts and manpower shortage… we just don’t have the manpower to keep it,” Pertuit said.

A sample of the contents of the boxes has been sent to the State Crime Lab in Missoula where it will be tested for quality. Pertuit said that the lab reports should also verify where the marijuana was grown. “We don’t know whether it was grown in the United States, locally, or whether it came in from Columbia or Mexico,” said the Sheriff. “Personally, I think it may have been grown in Mexico.”

He said that he had a few clues also as to why the marijuana was abandoned where it was. He speculated that a shipment may have been coming through the area and was abandoned by its owners out of fear.

“Officers Rogge and Lancaster were in the general area investigating a possible stolen vehicle report,” he said. “There were out in the county trying to locate possible suspects. The owner of the marijuana may have seen them, became alarmed and simply abandoned it.”


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