Showen gets 5 years suspended in shoot-out
A 26-year-old Whitefish man was given a five-year suspended sentence Monday for charges connected to his involvement in a shootout last December at the Eureka police station that left another man critically wounded.
In a plea agreement with the county attorney's office, Christopher Showen entered an Alford plea — not admitting guilt but accepting a conviction — to charges of conspiracy to commit assault with a weapon, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years. An additional charge of evidence tampering, punishable by a sentence of up to 10 years, was dismissed. The evidence tampering charge stemmed from allegations that Showen spit on blood on the floor following the shooting.
Because Showen's sentence exceeded the three-year deferred sentence recommended in the plea agreement, he was given until March 27 to withdraw his plea and go to trial. Unlike a suspended sentence, a deferred sentence can be removed from one's record following completion of probation.
Mark Nelson, 55, was charged with attempted deliberate homicide and two counts each of assault on a peace officer and assault with a weapon following the December incident. He was seriously wounded after being shot three times by a Eureka police officer but has since been transferred from a Kalispell hospital to the county jail in Libby.
According to court documents, the incident began with an apparent disturbance centering on Mark Nelson's daughter, Jennifer Nelson, at the Eureka VFW club. Jennifer Nelson is alleged to have used profane and abusive language and to have fought with the law enforcement officers who arrested her.
Mark Nelson and Showen, who were also present, were initially cited for disorderly conduct and released from custody after about an hour. Over the course of that hour, Jennifer Nelson remained in custody at the Eureka police station pending transport for a mental health evaluation. She continued to spit at officers and threaten to kill them and family members, court documents contend.
According to the charges against him, Mark Nelson returned to the station with a shotgun about 20 minutes after his release from custody and entered through a side door that had been opened for an ambulance crew preparing to transport his daughter. He is accused of pointing the gun at ambulance crew members and demanding his daughter's release.
Nelson fired a single round of buckshot at Eureka police officer Ian Jeffcock after Jeffcock, standing in a doorway leading to another room, commanded him to back away, the charges contend. Jeffcock, who wasn't hit, fired five rounds and hit Nelson once in the abdomen and twice in the thigh. A second round from Nelson's gun also missed Jeffock.
Shortly after the shooting, officers found Showen sitting in the front passenger seat of a car that was parked, with the motor running, near the police station. He was taken into custody without incident. According to the charges, officers found a loaded handgun, shotgun and hunting rifle within Showen's reach along with 15 to 20 shotgun rounds and 50 to 100 handgun rounds on his person.
Jennifer Nelson was charged with two felony counts of assault on a peace officer, one felony count of making a threat in official manners, and a misdemeanor count of assault with bodily fluids.