Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Montana: Billings man who fired pistol in self-defense released

Billings, Montana

From the Billings Gazette of February 6, 2008
Billings man who fired pistol in self-defense released

A Billings man who was arrested after firing a pistol in a tavern parking lot has been released from the county jail.

Justin Swanz, 26, was freed about 10 hours after his arrest early Tuesday when county prosecutors sent the case back to police for further investigation. Chief Deputy County Attorney Mark Murphy said he could not discuss details of the case, but Swanz claimed in an interview Wednesday that he fired the pistol in self-defense.

Swanz was arrested after police responded about 1:20 a.m. Tuesday to a weapons complaint at Shooters Casino and Sports Bar, 1600 Ave. D.

Officers stopped Swanz as he was leaving the parking lot in a Jeep Cherokee.

Swanz told The Gazette on Wednesday that he fired once into the air as six or seven men advanced on him in the parking lot following a confrontation inside the bar. Swanz said he fired the Taurus .44 Special revolver once.

"They were going to beat me up," Swanz said. "I had no choice but to fire that shot in the air. It was total self-defense."

Swanz said he had arrived at the tavern alone between 10 and 11 p.m. to play pool. He bought a pitcher of beer and played several pool games with another man. Swanz said he went to leave shortly after 1 a.m. and was confronted by men who claimed he owed the other man $1,200 for betting losses on the pool table.

Swanz said he did not bet on the games, but the men threatened him and one man grabbed his pocket knife from his front pants pocket. Swanz was told to leave, so he grabbed his jacket and walked out of the tavern, he said.

As he walked to his car, Swanz said, the men followed and continued to threaten him. When it appeared they were going to attack him, Swanz said, he pulled his pistol from his coat pocket, pointed it into the air and fired one shot. The gunfire stopped the men, although someone threw ice on him, he said.

Swanz said he does not have a concealed weapons permit. Swanz said he is unemployed and he has no criminal record.

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