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Man charged after allegedly threatening to shoot ranch employees

Daily Inter Lake | February 22, 2022 7:00 AM

A former Libby man faces a felony charge after allegedly leaving a threatening and profane phone message for the owner of a dude ranch south of the municipality.

Cooper Karl Brown, 25, of Kalispell pleaded not guilty to a single count of intimidation on Feb. 14. He was arraigned in Lincoln County District Court.

A transcript of the profanity-laced message, included in an affidavit and temporary restraining order request, alludes to ranch employees hunting in the nearby forest without orange clothing. It reads, in part, “If you’re gonna have your own guys huntin’ off your new [expletive] area you got, make sure they wear orange. ‘Cause next time I see’em, I’ll [expletive] shoot’em.”

The message also accuses the owner and his employees of coming to the Libby area from out of state and warns “none of us [expletive] like you. So learn where you [expletive] stand.”

The ranch owner reported the message, which was left by a number with a 406 area code at 4:52 p.m., Nov. 21, to authorities on Nov. 29. Detectives with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office tracked the phone number back to Brown, court documents said.

In an affidavit, Deputy Bobbie Noel recalled taking over the investigation on Dec. 2. She arranged to meet with the ranch owner along with Sgt. Luke Hauke.

“During the sit-down conversation … it was very evident [the ranch owner] was concerned about the welfare and safety of his employees,” Noel wrote.

The owner told her that an employee got to the message first, meaning that word of the threat had circulated among his workers, court documents said. Several of the employees were minorities, the owner told the deputies, heightening his concern, according to court documents.

According to Noel’s account, the owner believed the accusations about not wearing hunter orange were a distraction. He highlighted instead the reference to him not hailing from Montana.

He also disputed the accusation that his employees were hunting. They were out checking fence line and security cameras, he said, according to court documents.

The owner asked that the individual behind the message face prosecution, Noel wrote.

Noel contacted Brown on Dec. 4, dialing the number linked to the message. He allegedly admitted to leaving the message after Noel identified herself and the reason for her call.

Brown told Noel that when he spotted the two individuals, they were on U.S. Forest Service land. They were crouched down, he told her. He said he routinely hunted in that area and assumed they were doing likewise — except without donning orange.

Noel read a transcript of the message back to Brown and told him of the ranch owner’s fears.

“I explained to Brown [that] due to the threatening words he used … [the owner] was very concerned and believed Brown would shoot at his employees unprovoked,” Noel recalled.

Brown allegedly expressed remorse for his choice of words and said he understood why the owner would feel anxious.

“Brown said he should have thought about what he said before speaking,” Noel wrote.

Noel took her recording of that conversation to the ranch owner and played it. Despite the apology, the ranch owner wanted to pursue charges against Brown, Noel wrote.

Intimidation is punishable by up to 10 years with the Montana State Prison and a $50,000 fine.