HELENA — The FBI has stepped in to lead the investigation into a state senator and Blackfeet tribal leader accused of fleeing an officer who suspected him of drunken driving, according to new court documents.
Possible charges include obstructing a peace officer, driving under the influence and reckless driving against Democratic Sen. Shannon Augare, according to a federal search-warrant application filed Tuesday in Great Falls. He has not been charged.
Augare, also is a member of the governing Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, was pulled over May 26 on U.S. Highway 2 after the Glacier County Sheriff's Office received calls of an erratic driver. A deputy suspected Augare was drunk and tried to take his keys, but Augare told the officer he had no jurisdiction and drove away, according to the sheriff's office.
The sheriff's office turned the case over to the Blackfeet tribal justice system because the traffic stop occurred within the boundaries of the reservation in northwestern Montana. Blackfeet chief prosecutor Carl Pepion said Thursday that he asked the U.S. attorney's office to look at the case.
"I asked them to review it and I haven't heard if they're going to do anything," Pepion said in a brief telephone interview. He declined to comment further.
Augare did not return a call for comment Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said she could not comment. But an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jason Grende shows the FBI is pursuing possible charges under the federal Assimilated Crimes Act, which allows prosecutors to apply state laws to offenses committed in Indian country that are not specifically addressed in federal law. The three misdemeanor charges identified in the warrant application all fall under the Montana code.
The application seeks a warrant for surveillance video from the Pioneer Bar and TNT Casino in Cut Bank.
Grende's written statement accompanying the application provides more detail as to what happened, based on an interview with a bar employee and examination of surveillance video from the bar and traffic stop.
Augare and his family were at the bar before 7 p.m. that night, and the employee served Augare drinks throughout the evening, according to the affidavit. The video footage showed Augare leave later that night with his mother in a pickup.
Around midnight, two people called 911 to say a person was driving erratically on the highway from Cut Bank to Browning. Two deputies stopped the vehicle, and two cameras recorded the encounter.
One deputy approached the driver and asked if he knew why he stopped him, the affidavit says. The driver identified himself as Augare and said the deputy had no jurisdiction and that he was going to leave.
The deputy ordered Augare to turn off the ignition, and the officer reached in and placed the gear shift into park. The deputy tried to grab the keys and told Augare, "You are highly intoxicated," the affidavit says.
Augare revved his engine in response and the second deputy pulled the first officer back as Augare sped off, the affidavit says.
The deputies called Blackfeet law enforcement, and two tribal officers found the pickup parked behind some grain bins. Augare and his mother had switched places, with his mother in the driver's seat, and the keys were no longer in the ignition, the affidavit says.
The officers did not conduct any breathalyzer or sobriety tests, but gave the pair a ride home, it says.