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Gregg Robert Trude, 62, left, appears in court

Gregg Robert Trude, 62, left, appears in court with his attorney Greg Jackson on Jan. 2 at the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse. Trude is charged with negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence and could face upwards of 30 years in the Montana State Prison if convicted. 

The man charged with negligent homicide in a 2018 Helena shooting death never denied touching his gun after it discharged, his attorneys argued in a motion to dismiss the case. 

This directly contradicts the initial report filed in October by officer Brandon Wootan of the Helena Police Department. 

Dr. Eugene "Buzz" Walton was fatally shot on Oct. 21, 2018 in the former K-Mart parking lot just off Cedar Street in Helena. Gregg Robert Trude was later charged with felony counts of negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the shooting. 

According to the initial report, officers responded to multiple 911 calls about shots fired and found a large group of people standing near two trucks in the commercial parking lot. Two officers provided first aid to Walton, who was lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to his upper right thigh. 

Trude was standing next to one of the trucks, which had hunting rifles in the backseat. Trude told an officer he had invited Walton on a hunting trip, and the two had just returned. Trude said Walton was removing the rifles from the backseat of the truck when one of them went off. 

According to a motion to dismiss filed last week in Lewis and Clark County District Court, Trude was charged with negligent homicide because:

  • he left his gun loaded during transport in a case that was partially open;
  • witnesses placed him in or around his vehicle during the shooting and Walton was the only other person present;
  • the firearm discharged at a downward angle and officers did not observe items on the seat that could have created this angle;
  • Trude went in an out of both vehicles while officers were on the scene;
  • the spent casing was removed from the gun;
  • Trude moved Walton's gun;
  • the trigger on Trude's gun was working properly.

The 16-page motion to dismiss the case presents Trude's account of the events immediately before and after the shooting and argues the "State lacks probable cause supporting the allegations."

Trude's attorneys argued he should not have been charged with negligent homicide because Trude was not touching the gun when it discharged. 

According to the document, Walton was removing Trude's rifle from the rear passenger door and Trude was standing in the front driver's door of the truck when the gun fired. Trude and several eyewitnesses reported Trude was not near the gun when it fired the fatal round, the motion to dismiss says. 

During a re-enactment with a similarly sized and similarly built man, they wrote, law enforcement confirmed that Trude could not have reached his gun from the front seat of the truck. The state's evidence also indicates Trude was not touching the gun when it discharged, they wrote. 

Trude's attorneys argued he should not have been charged with tampering with evidence because he did not believe he was under investigation at the time and was assured by several officers at the scene that he had done nothing wrong. 

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Trude moved Walton's gun to get it out of the way and cleared the spent casing from his own gun while law enforcement was rendering aid to the injured man because the rifle was pointed at them, his attorneys wrote. 

"Mr. Trude's gun had just discharged for an unknown reason. It was still lying on the backseat of his truck, and it was pointed toward five people," the motion says. 

In his initial report, officer Wootan wrote: "I asked Gregg if he had touched or moved the rifle after it had gone off. Gregg stated multiple times that he had not."

According to Trude's attorneys, "Neither officer Wootan nor any officer ever asked Mr. Trude if he touched his gun subsequent to it having been discharged."

A trial date has been set for May 6.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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