WHITEFISH — A West Glacier man on Thursday night shot and killed the host of the Sportsman Channel show “A Rifleman’s Journal” while the television personality was visiting the shooter’s wife at a Whitefish residence, police said Friday.
Wayne Bengston, 41, then beat and pistol-whipped his wife before fleeing the residence with the couple’s 2-year-old son, Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial said.
Bengston brought the unharmed boy to a relative’s home and drove to his home in West Glacier, where he shot and killed himself.
The shooting victim, Gregory C. Rodriguez, 43, of Sugar Land, Texas, had just arrived in the Flathead Valley on business and was visiting the woman at her mother’s house in Whitefish.
Bengston entered the home around 10:20 p.m. and shot Rodriguez with a .44 caliber revolver from approximately three feet away, Dial said.
“The victim was here on business and had stopped to talk to a friend for the evening and have a glass of wine,” Dial said Friday. “Mr. Bengston came into the home and shot him immediately. We think that it was just a professional relationship, but perhaps the husband thought it was more than that. But that is just conjecture.”
The 2-year-old boy was in a downstairs bedroom sleeping and did not witness the shooting or the beating, Dial said. The child was taken into the custody of Child Protective Services and reunited with his mother.
The woman, who will not be identified, was treated and released from North Valley Hospital in Whitefish. Her injuries included a concussion, a black eye, swollen lips and contusions, Dial said.
Rodriguez died from multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, arm, shoulder and right leg, the police chief said.
Flathead County sheriff’s deputies and a SWAT team responded to Bengston’s home on Old Highway 2 in West Glacier and, after unsuccessful attempts to contact the man, entered the residence and found Bengston dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The revolver was recovered at the scene.
Dial said investigators believe Bengston shot himself immediately upon returning to his home.
As the host of “A Rifleman’s Journal,” Rodriguez chronicled his adventures as an outdoor writer, outfitter and marksmanship instructor. He traveled the globe in pursuit of big game, jet-setting to exotic locations in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the South Pacific, according to a biography posted on the Sportsman Channel’s website.
In addition to his television persona, Rodriguez was the founder and CEO of Global Adventure Outfitters, was an editor at Shooting Times Magazine and a contributing editor at Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, and Dangerous Game. He has a wife and two children.
His death is the second shooting fatality in Whitefish in just over a month.
In early February, a Whitefish woman fatally shot her boyfriend, Ordean L. EngeBretson, at a residence on the 400 block of Colorado Avenue. The woman, Katherine Lanegan, has not been charged with a crime as the initial investigation revealed elements of self-defense. That investigation is ongoing.
Shootings and violent crimes are extremely unusual in Whitefish, Dial said.
“I’ve been chief for 11 years. My first year here there was a double homicide. Since then, we haven’t had any violent crimes to speak of in Whitefish until this February,” he said. “It has been a very bad month and we hope that no other violent crimes occur.”