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Local officer arrested on suspicion of pulling gun while drunk

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Phillip Jay Clark

Phillip Jay Clark

A Lewis and Clark County sheriff's deputy faces a felony charge of assault with a weapon after allegedly hitting and pulling a gun on a man he called "an ISIS" while drunk at a party. 

Phillip Jay Clark, 49, was arrested Monday morning. He is accused of pointing the gun at the man's chest three times with his finger on the trigger.

Court documents filed by an assistant state attorney general say Clark brandished the gun during a bonfire outside his home on Dec. 4.

Court documents say an agent with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, Anne Dormady, "spoke with a series of witnesses" who attended a bachelor party and then a nighttime bonfire hosted by Clark and others. The alleged victim, identified as C.F., is a friend of Clark's neighbor, the documents note.

C.F. told the investigator Clark was "super intoxicated" and "excited" when he arrived at the gathering. 

"He said Clark, 'Got a little bit violent and a little bit aggressive right away.' He said it seemed like Clark wanted to fight. He said after shaking Clark's hand Clark, 'pulled out his gun, pointed it at me and then laughed, handed it to somebody else like we were about to fight ...'" the court documents say. 

Court documents do not list the type of gun allegedly used by Clark. 

The documents say C.F. told the investigator Clark hit him in the ribs, then asked the victim to name the capital of Thailand, responded "Bangkok" and hit him in the groin before the man could respond. 

"C.F. had long hair on his head, facial hair and he is half-Asian," court documents note. 

Later during the bonfire, Clark is accused of becoming aggressive toward the man again and calling him "an ISIS" while brandishing his gun. C.F. reported a friend telling him to flee.

"He said as he ran away he was '100% positive he was gonna start shooting,'" the documents say. 

Clark's private attorney, Mathew Johnson, said the agent failed to speak with his client and other witnesses. 

"My client was very surprised that charges were filed without an investigator talking to him," Johnson said. 

Anastasia Burton, deputy communications director for the Montana Department of Justice, said she could not comment "as the case is still under review."

An interview with Clark "would include self-defense claims," Johnson said, adding that he looks forward to proving his client's innocence during trial.  

Clark was booked into the county jail at 9:23 a.m. Monday. Clark's bond was originally set at $50,000, but when Clark appeared in justice court, he was released on his own recognizance with certain conditions, including a GPS monitor. 

The case began, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said, after his office received a call from a citizen, who filed an officer complaint. 

"Upon initial investigation, we found the complaint warranted further investigation," Dutton said in a press release. 

The case was then forwarded to the Montana Department of Justice investigation division to avoid a conflict of interest and "any sense of impropriety," he said. 

County Chief Administrative Officer Eric Bryson said Clark "is currently an employee of Lewis and Clark County." Bryson declined to comment on whether any restrictions have been put on Clark's job. 

According to a 2000 article in the Independent Record, Clark was hired that year as a deputy. He had spent five years as both a detention officer at the jail and a reserve deputy previously. 

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