A massive manhunt ended late Wednesday night after police found the suspect dead just hours after he shot and killed a Montana Highway Patrolman outside Three Forks.
More than 100 police officers searched deep into the night for Errol Brent Bouldin, 56, who shot and killed 23-year-old Trooper David DeLaittre. Gallatin County Sheriff James Cashell said Bouldin shot DeLaittre on a roadway just off Montana Highway 2 at about 4:30 p.m. Police from across southern and central Montana aided the search for Bouldin, who was on the loose for nearly four hours.
Bouldin was found dead around 8:30 p.m. in his truck in the Crow Creek area near Radersburg in Broadwater County, just southwest of Townsend. Cashell said the official cause of death wouldn’t be released until after an autopsy.
The investigation is continuing and is being conducted by the Gallatin County sheriff-coroner, Broadwater County Sheriff and Broadwater County Coroner with assistance from the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation. A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. today, at the Law and Justice Center in Bozeman. More details would be released at that time, Cashell said.
“This is a sad day for all Montanans and their law enforcement agencies,” he said in a short press release sent at 11:03 p.m.
Bouldin allegedly shot DeLaittre with a shotgun during a seemingly routine traffic stop and took the trooper’s duty pistol and at least one magazine, according to dispatch traffic. He fled the scene in a green 1999 Ford F-250 with Montana plate 6C-72082 with a dog kennel in the back.
Bouldin was originally believed to be heading north toward Broadwater County, according to law enforcement dispatches after the shooting.
Authorities immediately closed Highway 2 from the junction of U.S. Highway 287 to Interstate 90 at Three Forks, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.
Public records show Errol Brent Bouldin has a previous address in Belgrade, though Cashell’s press release said he lived in Three Forks. Belgrade police Sgt. David Keen told The Associated Press a warrant for Bouldin’s arrest was issued on Dec. 3, 2009, on a contempt charge, meaning Bouldin either failed to appear in court or did not comply with a court order. Keen said he did not know why the contempt warrant was issued.
The Independent Record also learned that Bouldin used to live in Arizona. Numerous Web search results listed Bouldin as a dog trainer with North Rim Retrievers of Camp Verde, Ariz, though none were recent. There is no mention of Bouldin on North Rim’s current website, although a woman by the name of Debra Bouldin is listed as the owner.
Debra Bouldin, in a telephone interview Wednesday night with the AP prior to news being released of his death, said her ex-husband drove a truck that fit that description.
She told the AP she hadn’t spoken to her ex-husband since he left Arizona in January 2006, after he nearly died from a rattlesnake bite the year before. She said that experience left him a changed man.
“You know how when people have trauma they either become so thankful about everything about life or else they become bitter against life? Brent went to the bitter side,” she said. “That was a very life-changing thing for him. What happened after that, I honestly can’t tell you.”
DeLaittre, who was a homegrown boy from Three Forks, was sworn in as a trooper in November 2008. He was initially stationed in Chinook and then transferred to Bozeman in April 2010, Department of Justice spokeswoman Judy Beck said.
According to the troopers association, DeLaittre “chose the patrol because he wanted to work for the most respected law enforcement agency in Montana.”
Three Forks Mayor Gene Townsend told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Wednesday evening that he had known David DeLaittre since the trooper “was a little kid.”
“His dad was a highway patrol trooper,” the mayor said. “(David) wanted to be in law enforcement his whole life.”
DeLaittre is the eighth and youngest trooper to have been killed in the line of duty and the first shot since 1978, according to the Montana Department of Justice’s “End of Watch” program.
“It gets kind of hard to take after awhile,” Montana Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Butch Huseby told the Chronicle. “They leave a lot behind. This two-year trooper lost his life doing what he loved to do and serving the public.”
His parents and two sisters still live in Three Forks, according to the Chronicle.
Denny Lester of the Independent Record and Matt Volz, of The Associated Press contributed to this report.