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Troy chief of police cleared of wrongdoing

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| October 29, 2009 12:00 AM

The state attorney general’s office recently cleared Troy’s chief of police of criminal wrongdoing related to a dispute the official had with a local gun club.

“The case file was submitted to an assistant attorney general,” said John Strandell, investigations bureau chief of the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation. “He did a review and determined that no criminal act was committed.”

Police chief Mitch Walters was investigated in August on allegations of felony theft when he refused to hand over property belonging to Cabinet Rifle and Pistol Club. He had been storing the club’s metal targets since last fall when the lease on its Troy shooting range wasn’t renewed. Members began practicing at a Libby shooting range, but he wanted the targets to stay in Troy.

“It was a civil matter from the beginning,” Walters said. “I knew it; they knew it. It only went to the state because they’re the agency that deals with these things.”

Though Walters gained the support of the Troy Shooting Club in his plight to keep Cabinet’s equipment for use of Troy residents, he eventually returned the equipment to Cabinet.

“It was clear to me that the battle wasn’t worth fighting for,” Walters said, “even though I had support of the local club here.”

Cabinet members pegged the value of the targets at $7,000 and Walters said the used equipment was worth less than $1,000.

Cabinet Rifle and Pistol Club had reported Walters to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted a preliminary investigation. Sheriff Daryl Anderson then handed the case off to the state because of conflict-of-interest issues.