Prosecutor: $10,000 drug debt owed to father at center of Lockwood shooting

2013-02-28T16:50:00Z 2013-12-17T07:44:05Z Prosecutor: $10,000 drug debt owed to father at center of Lockwood shootingBy GREG TUTTLE gtuttle@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Bond was set at $150,000 Thursday for a man prosecutors say ambushed and shot his father outside a Lockwood business over a $10,000 drug debt.

Brandon Jay Joseph White, 23, appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court by video from the county jail on two counts of felony assault with a weapon and one alternative count of assault with a weapon by accountability.

White also is charged with felony tampering on an allegation that while on the lam for nearly a month he used blue spray paint to change the appearance of a white Pontiac Grand Prix used in the shooting.

Judge Pedro Hernandez set bond at the amount recommended by Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza. Deputy Public Defender Erik Moore asked for a bond of $75,000, saying White has been in Billings five years, can get a job and has a child.

White was arrested Tuesday morning after sheriff's deputies received an anonymous tip that he was staying at a motel in Laurel.

White's arrest ended a manhunt that began on Jan. 29, when deputies responded to a shooting at an auto body shop in Lockwood owned by White's father, 52-year-old Walter White.

No one remained at the business when deputies arrived, but numerous .45-caliber shell casings in the parking lot and a video surveillance camera outside the building helped investigators sort out the events.

According to court records, the video shows a white passenger car arrive outside the business at 1270 Lockwood Road at 3:19 a.m.

Walter White's 1986 Ford Bronco arrived a short time later, "and the shooting begins at approximately 3:33 a.m.," the court records state.

The video shows "at least two people inside the passenger car shooting," and "the occupant of the Bronco returning fire."

Walter White as wounded in the back during the exchange of gunfire. A female passenger in the Bronco, Jessica Matney, whom Souza described as a second victim, later told detectives she "got down and covered her ears during the shooting."

At 3:54 a.m., the video shows a man Brandon White later described as his father's "enforcer," Kurt Whitling, and a woman named Jennifer Swanson arrive at the business, court records state. The pair can be seen removing items from the auto body shop.

Sheriff Mike Linder said Thursday that detectives continue searching for Whitling and Matney. He said he could not confirm the identity of the second gunman in the white car.

The video shows a second vehicle, a pickup truck with a man and woman inside, also arriving after the shooting, court records state. The pair can be seen on the video removing more items from the shop.

"Eventually, the Bronco leaves the shop with Jennifer Swanson driving and Walter White in the passenger seat," court records state.

Walter White was treated for the gunshot wound at St. Vincent Healthcare and was released before detectives could interview him, but he has since given a statement.

Walter White told detectives he pulled into the shop and immediately noticed the white car as the vehicle his son drives, court records state.

The car pulled toward his Bronco, Walter White said, and the occupants opened fire, striking his Bronco and hitting him in the lower back.

"Walter said he returned fire with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol," court records state.

Detectives later found a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and seven spent casings of the same caliber inside a tool box during a search of the shop.

Investigators said they later learned that Brandon White and his father had been "embroiled in a dispute over a $10,000 debt."

In court Thursday, Souza said investigators believe the debt may be related to methamphetamine.   

After his arrest, Brandon White allegedly gave a statement and identified the second man in his car and said both fired .45-caliber handguns during the shooting.

Brandon White also allegedly said the shooting stemmed from a $10,000 debt he owed his father.

Brandon White "stated that in mid-January, he had a violent confrontation with his father and his father's 'enforcer,' Kurt Whitling," court records state.    

Brandon White was ordered to appear for arraignment in District Court on March 8.        

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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