Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Proposed sentence in Eureka shootout is not acceptable

| December 12, 2006 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

Almost one year ago, on Dec. 18, 2005, Mark Thomas Nelson forced his way into the Eureka police station, brandishing a loaded shotgun and other firearms, in an attempt to prevent his daughter from being transported to Kalispell by ambulance for psychiatric evaluation.

Nelson pointed a loaded shotgun directly at the head of 19-year-old Justin Kearney, a member of the Eureka Ambulance Service, and threatened to shoot him if he didn't release Nelson's daughter, Jennifer Nelson.

Nelson then pointed the gun at another ambulance crew member, John Hannay, and threatened to shoot him as well. In total, Nelson threatened the lives of four ambulance crew members, a local Prompt Care nurse, two law enforcement officers and a town dispatcher.

When Nelson opened fire, the youngest ambulance crew member and nurse were still in the room, just feet away from the barrel of Nelson's gun.

These crimes were not only violent but pre-meditated. Prior to the shoot-out, Nelson had verbally threatened the lives of law enforcement officers, in the presence of an ambulance member.

After being charged and released, Nelson and accomplice Christopher Showen, went directly home, loaded their vehicle with guns and ammunition, and drove right back to the police station to make good on the earlier threat.

It was only by the grace of God and the diligent efforts of several law enforcement officers and many emergency medical technicians that no one died that night. In fact, Nelson owes his very life to the ambulance crew members that he threatened to kill.

Nelson was originally charged with the following for his crimes that night:

* One count of attempted deliberate homicide for attempting to shoot Eureka police officer Ian Jeffcock with a 12-gauge shotgun. This is a felony crime and carries a punishment of no less than 10 years and no more than 110 years imprisonment in a state prison.

* Two counts of assault on a peace officer for firing his shotgun at Eureka police officers Ian Jeffcock and Jerry Schmuck. These are also felony crimes and each count carries a punishment of no less than two years and no more than 10 years imprisonment in a state prison, or a fine not to exceed $50,000, or both.

* Two counts of assault with a weapon for pointing his shotgun at the head of 19-year old Eureka Ambulance crew member Justin Kearney and threatening to shoot him, and for pointing his shotgun at Eureka Ambulance crew member John Hannay and threatening to shoot him as well. These are also felony crimes and each count carries a punishment of state imprisonment not to exceed 20 years or a fine not to exceed $50,000, or both.

However, on Nov. 27, Nelson pleaded guilty to the two charges of assault on a peace officer and two charges of assault with a weapon as part of a plea agreement with Lincoln County Attorney Bernard Cassidy.

As part of this plea agreement, Nelson would be sentenced to 20 years, but instead of imprisonment, Nelson would be sent to the state mental hospital in Warm Springs. In addition, Nelson would be eligible for parole in five years. Counting his time already served (approximately one year), Nelson could be back on the streets threatening lives in four years. Somewhere the math just doesn't add up.

Nelson will appear before District Court Judge Michael C. Prezeau on Monday, Dec. 18, at 9:30 a.m. for sentencing.

We humbly ask you to join us in asking Judge Prezeau to deny the proposed plea agreement and to hand down a just and fair sentence - a sentence that is appropriate for the serious and violent nature of Nelson's pre-meditated crimes.

Flood the offices of these two civil servants with your phone calls - let them know that the proposed plea agreement is not acceptable to the citizens of Lincoln County, nor is it a fair punishment for the crimes committed against the very public servants that keep us all safe and respond day or night to save our lives.

Call Lincoln County Attorney Bernard Cassidy at 293-2717 and Judge Prezeau at 293-7781 extension 270. Also look for and sign petitions at various businesses in Eureka.

Dennis Radish, President

John Hannay, Vice President

Jessica Gould, Secretary

Eureka Volunteer Ambulance