FBI names Lodge Grass shooting victims; search continues for suspect

Considered armed, dangerous
2011-10-05T13:04:00Z 2011-12-20T07:44:18Z FBI names Lodge Grass shooting victims; search continues for suspectThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 05, 2011 1:04 pm  • 

UPDATE: 2:55 P.M.: Schools were closed and residents were told to remain indoors Wednesday as authorities fanned across the southeast Montana countryside looking for an armed man suspected in a triple shooting on the Crow Reservation.

Authorities were seeking Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, in the deaths of his grandmother and a young couple at a rural residence about 10 miles outside of Lodge Grass, a town of about 500 people near the Wyoming border.

The FBI identified the dead, believed to have been shot Tuesday afternoon, as Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins, 80; Chase's cousin, 21-year-old Levon Driftwood; and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Rueben Jefferson.

It was unclear what led to the shootings or how Chase was identified as a suspect. Chase has a history of mental illness and is considered armed and extremely dangerous, said Eric Barnhart, FBI supervisor in Billings.

Police, game wardens and tribal authorities were combing county roads looking for the suspect, said Big Horn County Commissioner John Pretty On Top.

Chase lived with his uncle in a mobile home about 100 feet from his grandmother's modest log house set back several hundred yards from the road, said City Clerk Cody Not Afraid.

On Wednesday, police tape stretched across Cummins' property, and Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officers kept onlookers from approaching.

People in Lodge Grass described the victims and the suspect as coming from a close family. Dennis Bravo, the maintenance man at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic church, said Chase attended Mass two or three times a week, sometimes with family members, but often alone.

But, Bravo said, "there was something strange" about Chase.

"Looks like a nice kid from a distance, but, when you see him face-to-face, well, my wife says he spooked her," Bravo said

Bravo described an incident after one Mass in which he said he saw an angry Chase yelling at a young child, possibly for riding a bicycle around the church.

Schools were closed on Wednesday, and some Lodge Grass residents said they were frightened to leave their homes as long as the suspect remains at large.

"We'll run to the store and do what we have to do, but, otherwise, we're going to stay home," Taiann Crooked Arm said on her way to buy groceries.

Schools were also closed in the Mandaree area on North Dakota's Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where Chase has family.

"It's precautionary," said Three Affiliated Tribes spokeswoman Glenda Embry. "There is a lot of police activity in the area. Tribal police are on alert."

Chase is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes and weighing 230 pounds. The FBI said he is believed to be driving a white Toyota Corolla with North Dakota plates.

Anyone who sees Chase was asked not to approach him but, instead, call law enforcement. Meanwhile, authorities throughout the state, as well as in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota have been notified of the manhunt.

Crow tribal secretary Scott Russell warned against speculation on what sparked the shooting until all the facts are known. He said he could not recall a tragedy of such magnitude among the close-knit tribe.

"This is pretty devastating to the community and the Crow Nation," he said. "We are all in shock."

Public buildings across the reservation were locked down when the search for Chase was first launched. Pretty On Top said security guards were patrolling outside Lodge Grass High School as a precaution on Wednesday.

Pretty On Top said he was distantly related to the victims and the suspect - as are many in the small reservation community.

"Between the clan system, we're all related some way. It was a terrible thing to happen," he said.

 UPDATE 1:05 P.M.: Schools were closed and residents were told to remain indoors on Wednesday as authorities fanned across the southeast Montana countryside looking for an armed man suspected in a triple shooting on the Crow Reservation.

Authorities were seeking Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, in the deaths of his grandmother and a young couple at a rural residence about 10 miles outside of Lodge Grass, a town of about 500 people near the Wyoming border.

The FBI identified the dead, believed to have been shot on Tuesday afternoon, as Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins, 80; Chase's cousin, 21-year-old Levon Driftwood; and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Rueben Jefferson.

It was unclear what led to the shootings or how Chase was identified as a suspect. He had apparently been living with his grandmother.

Chase has a history of mental illness and is considered armed and extremely dangerous, said Eric Barnhart, FBI supervisor in Billings.

Police, game wardens and tribal authorities were combing county roads looking for the suspect, said Big Horn County Commissioner John Pretty On Top.

Schools were closed on Wednesday, and some Lodge Grass residents said they were frightened to leave their homes as long as the suspect remains at large.

"We'll run to the store and do what we have to do, but, otherwise, we're going to stay home," Taiann Crooked Arm said on her way to buy groceries.

Schools were closed in the Mandaree area on North Dakota's Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where Chase has family.

"It's precautionary," said Three Affiliated Tribes spokeswoman Glenda Embry. "There is a lot of police activity in the area. Tribal police are on alert."

Chase is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes and weighing 230 pounds. The FBI said he is believed to be driving a white Toyota Corolla with North Dakota plates.

Anyone who sees Chase was asked not to approach him but instead call law enforcement. Meanwhile, authorities throughout the state, as well as in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota have been notified of the manhunt.

Crow tribal secretary Scott Russell warned against speculation on what sparked the shooting until all the facts are known. He said he could not recall a tragedy of such magnitude among the close-knit tribe.

"This is pretty devastating to the community and the Crow Nation," he said. "We are all in shock."

Public buildings across the reservation were locked down when the search for Chase was first launched. Pretty On Top said security guards were patrolling outside Lodge Grass High School as a precaution on Wednesday.

Pretty On Top said he was distantly related to the victims and the suspect -- as are many in the small reservation community.

"Between the clan system, we're all related some way. It was a terrible thing to happen," he said.

UPDATE 11:55 A.M.: The FBI has identified the three people killed in a home near Lodge Grass on Tuesday.

In a news release, the FBI said Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, allegedly shot the victims with a rifle around noon. Chase's grandmother, 80-year old Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins, his cousin, 21-year old Levon F. Driftwood, and her boyfriend, 20-year old Rueben Charles Jefferson, died at the scene.

The FBI said its agents and officials with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Big Horn County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies continue to search for Chase.

The FBI now says that Chase may be driving a white Toyota Corolla with North Dakota plates. The license number is JLZ-719 (VIN 2T1BR12E51C818554). His direction of travel is still unknown. Law enforcement agencies in surrounding states have been notified that Chase is wanted for questioning in connection with the shootings, the FBI said.

The FBI encourages the public to call with tips to (801) 579-1400 or the nearest law enforcement agency.

UPDATE: 11:48 A.M.: The search for an armed suspect in a triple shooting on the Crow Reservation spanned the southeast Montana countryside on Wednesday as people were warned to stay inside for their safety.

Authorities were seeking Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, in the deaths of a his grandmother and a young couple at a rural residence about 10 miles outside of Lodge Grass, a town of about 500 people near the Wyoming border.

Big Horn County Commissioner John Pretty On Top said schools there reopened Wednesday morning but classes were held behind locked doors.

Police, game wardens and tribal authorities are combing county roads looking for the suspect, Pretty On Top said.

The investigation is being led by the FBI. It remains unclear what led to the shootings or how Chase was identified as a suspect. He had apparently been living with his grandmother.

Chase has a history of mental illness and is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes and weighing 230 pounds. He may be driving a Toyota Corolla or Celica with South Dakota license plates or a 2000 red Volkswagen Jetta.

"Our concern is he may be out of the area and driving any one of those vehicles," said FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram.

Anyone who sees Chase was asked not to approach him but instead call law enforcement. Meanwhile, authorities throughout the state, as well as in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota have been notified of the manhunt.

Chase had family on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and authorities there were alerted, said Crow tribal secretary Scott Russell.

Russell warned against speculation on what sparked the shooting until all the facts are known.

Russell said he could not recall a tragedy of such magnitude among the close-knit tribe.

"This is pretty devastating to the community and the Crow Nation," he said Wednesday. "We are all in shock."

Public buildings across the reservation were locked down at about 1:30 or 2 p.m. Tuesday when the search for Chase was first launched. Pretty On Top said security guards continued patrolling outside Lodge Grass High School Wednesday as a precaution.

Pretty On Top said he was distantly related to the victims and the suspect - as are many in the small reservation community.

"Between the clan system, we're all related some way. It was a terrible thing to happen," he said.

UPDATE: 10 A.M.: The search for an armed suspect in a triple shooting on the Crow Reservation spanned the southeast Montana countryside Wednesday as people were warned to stay inside for their safety, a Big Horn County commissioner said.

Authorities were seeking Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, in the deaths of an elderly woman and a young couple at a rural residence about 10 miles outside of Lodge Grass, a town of about 500 people near the Wyoming border.

County Commissioner John Pretty On Top of Lodge Grass said schools there reopened Wednesday morning but classes were held behind locked doors.

"It's still police all over Lodge Grass," he said. "Game wardens, (Crow Tribe) natural resources people -- they're all on the country roads, combing them, looking for him."

The investigation is being led by the FBI. It remains unclear what led to the shootings.

Chase has a history of mental illness and is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes and weighing 230 pounds. He may be driving a Toyota Corolla or Celica with South Dakota license plates or a 2000 red Volkswagen Jetta.

"Our concern is he may be out of the area and driving any one of those vehicles," said FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram.

Local officials say the victims included Chase's elderly grandmother, a widow. He had apparently been living with her in the house outside Lodge Grass.

Anyone who sees Chase was asked not to approach him but instead call law enforcement. Meanwhile, authorities throughout the state, as well as in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota have been notified of the manhunt.

Public buildings across the reservation were locked down at about 1:30 or 2 p.m. Tuesday when the search for Chase was first launched. Pretty On Top says security guards continued patrolling outside Lodge Grass High School Wednesday as a precaution.

Pretty On Top said he was distantly related to the victims and the suspect -- as are many in the small reservation community.

"Between the clan system, we're all related some way. It was a terrible thing to happen," he said.

 UPDATE: 9:45 A.M.: A Big Horn County commissioner says the search for a suspect in a triple shooting on the Crow Reservation is spanning the southeast Montana countryside as people are warned to stay inside for their safety.

Authorities were searching Wednesday for 22-year-old Sheldon Bernard Chase in the deaths of an elderly woman and a young couple at a rural residence southeast of Lodge Grass.

Commissioner John Pretty On Top says Lodge Grass schools have re-opened, but classes are being held behind locked doors.

Chase has a history of mental illness and is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with brown hair and weighing 230 pounds. He may be driving a Toyota Corolla or Celica with South Dakota license plates or a 2000 red Volkswagen Jetta.

INITIAL REPORT:

LODGE GRASS — Three people are dead and law enforcement is searching for 22-year-old man after a shooting Tuesday afternoon southwest of Lodge Grass.

Details about the victims have not been released, but Eric Barnhart, supervisory senior resident agent for the Billings FBI office, said they were shot with a high-powered rifle.

Lodge Grass City Clerk Cody Not Afraid said those killed were an elderly woman, her granddaughter and the granddaughter’s boyfriend. The two younger victims were in their 20s, said Not Afraid, who knew the victims’ families.

She said they lived along Lodge Grass Creek Road about 10 miles outside of Lodge Grass on the Crow Indian Reservation. Not Afraid said she did not know what led to the shootings.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office are searching for a man believed to be connected to the deaths. He is wanted for questioning.

Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing 230 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

The FBI said Chase may be driving a Toyota Corolla or Celica with South Dakota or North Dakota license plates. He may also be driving a 2000 red, four-door Volkswagen Jetta with expired Montana license plate number 2210861.

Anyone with information about Chase should contact the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division at 801-579-1400 or local law enforcement.

Barnhart said Chase has a history of mental illness.

“He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous,” Barnhart said.

The FBI has alerted law enforcement agencies in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota to be on the lookout for Chase.

Barnhart said one of the FBI’s main concerns is that Interstate 90, which passes just east of Lodge Grass, gives Chase quick access to those four states.

He said that if people see Chase, “it should be considered a 911 call.”

The shootings occurred at a small brown log or wooden home about nine miles southwest of Lodge Grass along Highway 463. The home is on the south side of the road set back more than 300 feet. Through much of the evening, there were at least 50 cars parked in the field next to the house.

Barnhart said that while there are several investigators on scene, the vast majority of the vehicles belonged to family and friends of the victims.

A line of yellow crime tape was set up in front of the house while investigators in yellow suits passed in and out. By 6:20 p.m., many of those gathered on the property had lined up along a fence to the west of the home.

When investigators began removing what appeared to be bodies from one of the home’s windows, waves of ululating and crying could be heard coming from the crowd.

In a statement on his Facebook page Tuesday night, Crow Tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle said all three victims were tribal members and that the entire reservation was in shock.

"In the coming days we need to pull together even tighter as a community and support these families in every way possible," he wrote.

Black Eagle went on to say that tribal officials have asked Indian Health Services to provide grief counseling at schools, Little Big Horn College, "tribal entities" and others impacted by the shootings.

Big Horn County Commissioner John Pretty on Top said the killings occurred at a home and that a family member was a suspect in the killings. That couldn’t be immediately confirmed by law enforcement sources.

“A young man went and killed some people up near Lodge Grass,” Pretty on Top said. “They’ve got rangers up there, moving about quite a bit.”

Lodge Grass Mayor Henry Speelman said city employees were sent home and schools were put on lockdown after the shooting. Some Crow Reservation schools and government offices were either closed or locked down.

Heather Whiteman Runs Him, a Crow tribal attorney, said early Tuesday evening that tribal employees had been released for the day. Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency was also on lockdown, but people were allowed to leave around 5:30 p.m.

Lodge Grass Elementary Principal Kenneth Deputee said little information had been passed along to school officials other than that they needed to lock the building down.

“All I heard was that there’s been a shooting in the area and that there is a man at large and that he may be armed and very dangerous,” Deputee said.

Tanya Little Light, a secretary at Lodge Grass High School, said authorities “just told us code yellow, which means get in your class, turn the lights off and put stuff on the windows so nobody can see inside.”

“It was probably about 1:50 or so,” she said. “They just told us there was some kind of accident or something.”

Little Light said security guards were at the school, but that there were no police officers outside or indications that the manhunt was taking place nearby.

Tribal representative Donald Spotted Tail said students were released Monday evening and told to stay home until the suspect is arrested.

“Pretty much everybody has been sent home,” he said. “There is word from law enforcement and local officials to be careful.”

In Billings, the James F. Battin Courthouse and the new federal courthouse under construction in downtown Billings were put on lockdown after police received information that the suspect possibly was en route.

Billings Police Lt. Mark Kirkpatrick said officers were posted at the courthouse and the new building.

“Somehow, some way our communications center received a report they were en route to the federal building,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got a uniformed officer over there with security and one over here at the new building being built.”

Kirkpatrick said he received different reports, and that the information was not clear, but police were watching the buildings to be safe. He said employees were sent home just before 5 p.m. after the report was received.

Barnhart said a tip that the shooter’s car may be parked at one of the federal buildings in Billings turned out to be false. That tip came from a man who was concerned he was going to be arrested on other charges, Barnhart said. The man, whose name was not immediately available, was arrested, Barnhart said.

 

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

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses