Jul 30, 2015

Suspect in Montana murders intended to have gunfight with deputy, sheriff says

A young man suspected of shooting three people in Montana initially planned to also shoot at a Park County Sheriff's deputy, but he changed his mind and surrendered when backup arrived, Sheriff Scott Steward says.

The 18-year-old Worland man, Jesus Y. Deniz (or Jesus Y. Deniz Mendoza), was apprehended between Meeteetse and Burlington around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Jesus Y. Deniz
Deniz was initially held at the Park County Detention Center while federal authorities investigated his connection to the killings of Crow Jason and Tana Shane and the wounding of their adult daughter, Jorah Shane, on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. He's scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Billings on Friday afternoon to face federal charges in connection with the crimes.

The Shanes had reportedly come to Deniz's aid after he ran into car trouble near Pryor, Montana, but Deniz later told FBI agents “he shot the victims because he was getting tired of waiting around, and because the daughter laughed at him,” FBI special agent Larry McGrail II alleged in a Thursday filing in U.S. District Court in Montana.

McGrail's complaint only identifies the Shanes by their initials, but family members have provided their names to news organizations that include the Billings Gazette and Associated Press.

Jason Shane's sister, Ada Shane, told the Associated Press that the shooter alleged to be Deniz had said his car ran out of gas.

“He's only 18, and he looked like an innocent boy,” Ada Shane told the AP, referring to Deniz. “Both my brother and sister-in-law have big hearts.”

“He's only 18, and he looked like an innocent boy. Both my brother and sister-in-law have big hearts,” said Ada Shane, a family member of the shooting victims.

After seeing that Deniz was stranded, Tana Shane went and got her husband and daughter, McGrail's affidavit says. However, when the Shanes pulled up to Deniz's car, he pulled a gun and demanded money, wrote McGrail. The Shanes said they didn't have any money and Deniz told them to walk away from their car, wrote McGrail, recounting a later interview with Jorah Shane.

As the family members were walking away, Jorah Shane reportedly heard a gunshot and turned to see her father, Jason Shane, lying in the road, McGrail wrote. Jorah Shane began running and a bullet hit her in the back while she fled, the affidavit says.

She turned to see the male, who she later identified as Deniz, driving off in her car, the affidavit says.

As bullets continued to fly, Jorah Shane was ultimately able to get into a bystander's car and drive to safety, the affidavit says.

Jorah Shane was reportedly shot in the back as she fled.

Around 10:30 a.m., law enforcement around the region were alerted to be on the lookout for a gray 2006 Pontiac G6 with Montana plates apparently Jorah Shane's vehicle taken by the shooter.

Shortly before noon, a Park County sheriff's deputy spotted Deniz and the Pontiac, heading south on Wyoming Highway 120, north of Meeteetse. Rather than trying to stop vehicle on his own, the deputy began following the man and waited for backup.

Deniz ultimately turned onto Road 3LE, which heads northeast toward Burlington. About 12 miles later, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper caught up with the deputy and they jointly stopped and arrested Deniz without incident, the sheriff's office has said.

“The deputy did the absolute right thing by not trying to stop him without backup,” said Park County Sheriff Steward. “Otherwise, who knows what the outcome would have been.”

The .22 caliber rifle Deniz allegedly used in the shooting was found in the vehicle, McGrail's affidavit says

Steward said Deniz later told FBI agents that “his full intent was basically, when the deputy stopped him, was (to) get in a gunfight with the deputy.” However, when Deniz saw a second officer would be helping make the arrest, “at that point he decided to give up,” Steward said of the account that the suspect reportedly gave to the FBI.

Until Deniz saw a second officer arrive, “his full intent was basically, when the deputy stopped him, was (to) get in a gun fight with the deputy,” said Sheriff Scott Steward.

A search of Wyoming court records showed no history of violence for Deniz. However, at the time of the shooting, he was facing a felony count of burglary relating to a June 25 incident in his home county.

Washakie County Circuit Court records indicate Deniz was jailed on the charge earlier this month. The burglary allegations were filed July 6 and a judge initially set Deniz's bail at $10,000 cash. However, the court reduced that to a signature bond on July 16 and Deniz was released from custody.

Big Horn County, Montana, County Attorney Jay Harris told MTN News that he plans to investigate what Deniz had been doing in the area before the shootings.

“We have very strong leads that he was not here by happenstance," Harris told MTN News. 

Deniz is scheduled to make his first appearance in U.S. District Court at 3 p.m. Friday in Billings in connection with Wednesday's shootings.

Pryor, Montana, is a community of more than 600 people. It's located about 33 miles south of Billings and roughly 17 miles east of Edgar.

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