November's officer-involved shooting on Blaine Street in Missoula appeared to be a "suicide by cop," according to court records filed by the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation.
On Nov. 18, after Jenessa Cooper, 49, was killed in an encounter with police at her home near Memorial Rose Garden, DCI agent Jeff Vittatoe applied for a search warrant for her home. That search warrant was filed in Missoula County District Court records last week, and contains reports from the incident not previously released by law enforcement.
Missoula police were dispatched to a disturbance call that morning in which someone had reportedly threatened another with a firearm at the 637 Blaine St., home. The caller, according to the search warrant, informed officers that Cooper indicated she was planning to commit a "Blue Suicide," which was taken to mean a law enforcement-assisted suicide, according to the report.
Officer Joseph Burger, previously identified by MPD as the officer involved and now on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, arrived and took a defensive position behind a parked vehicle in front of the residence to determine what was going on inside the home, the search warrant states.
While Burger positioned himself behind the vehicle, the front door of the home opened, and "a suspect was seen in the doorway brandishing a handgun in the direction of Officer Burger, according to the warrant. Burger then fired his handgun several times at the armed suspect. The suspect was then observed collapsing on the floor of the residence with no further movement."
A 1911-style .45-caliber handgun was found near Cooper's body as several officers entered the home. Cooper was found with one gunshot wound to the head, and an expended .45-caliber cartridge was located nearby. However, the search warrant filed Nov. 18 states "it is unknown at this time if the suspect died as a result of Officer Burger shooting at (Cooper) or by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
The search warrant sought a judge's approval to collect any and all firearms, ammunition, spent casings, bullets and bullet defects, as well as any letters, papers, electronic storage devices, cellular telephones or any other item related to a possible plan for suicide or law enforcement-facilitated suicide.
The return receipt includes two cell phones, the .45-caliber cartridge found near Cooper's body, and several bullets presumably fired by Burger that were found in the exterior and interior of the home.
State officials have yet to release any further information on the investigation, which continues.
Two of Cooper's friends who have spoken with the Missoulian about Cooper's life prior to the search warrant's filing said they suspected the incident may have been a "suicide by cop," and they do not blame police for her death.