Missoula County Attorney’s Office Punts Fox Club Shooting Case
Today the Missoula County Attorney’s office punted the Fox Club shooting case. Instead of bringing charges, or not bringing charges, prosecutors want a coroner’s inquest:
Missoula County prosecutors have declined to file charges in the shooting death of Christopher Hymel, the 23-year-old Louisiana man who was killed in the Fox Club Cabaret parking lot over a month ago.
Instead, Missoula Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks announced Monday that prosecutors are requesting a coroner’s inquest – the outcome of which will determine whether or not they will pursue charges against Michael Gordon, the man who admittedly shot Hymel in the early morning Sept. 1.
“The question is whether or not the shooting falls underneath the state’s definition of justifiable use of force and whether or not Mr. Gordon justifiably used deadly force,” he said.
Gordon claims he shot Hymel to protect himself from an assault, Marks said. Hymel was apparently unarmed during the altercation.
During the inquest, the facts of the case will be presented to a jury and Marks will interview witnesses and law enforcement officers, while Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen presides. He said Ibsen and the jury will also be allowed to ask questions.
He said he couldn’t comment further on the case because it’s confidential criminal investigation information, but the details of the shooting will be revealed during the inquest.
Hymel and Gordon apparently began to argue while they were leaving the strip club around 1 a.m. Police claim the argument escalated when Hymel began punching Gordon through the driver’s-side window. Gordon pulled a revolver from his car and fired a single shot into Hymel’s chest. Hymel was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
After 5 weeks, this? At least the Missoulian is no longer keeping the name of the killer off the pages of its publication. Michael Gordon is the young man who admittedly shot and killed Christopher Hymel. That last paragraph in the quoted selection above is also interesting. It’s a much more vague accounting of events than this depiction in an earlier article from the Missoulian:
The shooter, described only as a 27-year local man, pulled a revolver from his truck and shot 23-year-old Christopher Michael Hymel, a Louisiana resident in town visiting his girlfriend’s family, once in the chest. Hymel was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.
Witnesses said Hymel had stepped to the window of the man’s truck to discuss the vulgar comments the man had made toward two of Hymel’s female companions.
A fight ensued through the passenger window of the man’s truck. When Hymel stepped back to remove an article of clothing, witnesses told the Missoulian, the man allegedly stepped from his truck, shut his door, raised his revolver and shot Hymel in the chest.
So now our current Sheriff, Carl Ibsen, will preside over a messy sounding legal process where both jurors and the Sheriff can ask questions of witnesses while the prosecutor interviews witnesses. Remember, this is all happening after a 3 week investigation and a 2 week review of the evidence.
While killers like Michael Gordon and Markus Kaarma get to go about their lives, there are people sitting in jail for a wide variety of minor, petty offenses, like failing to appear on violations of city ordinances.
Fred Van Valkenburg can pull numbers out of thin air, like he did in the recent article about overcrowding in the county jail, which I wrote about here, but I don’t think anyone takes Fred seriously anymore.
The bigger problem is this: how can the Missoula County Attorney’s office restore public trust after years of scandal and dysfunction?