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2013 Colstrip file photo

A 2013 aerial view shows the town of Colstrip, power plants 1,2,3 and 4 and the Westmoreland coal mines near Colstrip. 

A teen boy shot another teen with an AR-15 at a Colstrip home in December, and officials are still determining how to handle the case. 

Brijen Fisher, 16, was shot by a former high school classmate Dec. 14 at a private residence in Colstrip, according to his mother, Jenny Small. Fisher was treated and survived his wounds, Small said.

Four teens were at the private home in Colstrip at the time of the mid-December shooting, according to Colstrip Police Chief Cory Hert. One teen used an AR-15 to shoot another teen, he confirmed.

Hert said the shooting was accidental and the suspect had been charged with criminal endangerment, a felony, three days after the incident.

“We were able to determine that one of the juveniles in the home, unaware that the weapon was loaded, pulled the trigger,” Hert told The Billings Gazette.

The name of the teen accused in the shooting is not a matter of public record, as officials determine whether to handle the case formally or informally. If handled informally, the matter is closed to the public and youth probation officers determine consequences. 

However, Matt Phillips, chief juvenile probation officer for the Colstrip region, said it would be unusual to see a criminal endangerment charge handled informally.

"Well, it wouldn’t be very common to deal with those informally," he said. 

Generally, it is up to youth court probation officers like Phillips to request a county attorney file charges formally, once they receive the case from law enforcement, if they feel the allegations were serious enough. But Phillips said he was prohibited from discussing specific cases. 

Fisher was transferred from a medical center in Colstrip to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings soon after arriving, Small said. He was shot in the shoulder and chest area, breaking his clavicle and requiring surgery to remove bullet fragments, the mother said. Fisher was discharged from the hospital Dec. 18, his mother said.

Small regretted the fact that her son declined to be interviewed by the Colstrip Police Department about the case, saying that without his side of the story, law enforcement did not have the complete picture.

She said her son had attended Colstrip High School but moved to Lame Deer High School in the fall. 

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Small has taken to social media to speak out about the incident, and has criticized the Colstrip Police Department and Colstrip School District for what she saw as a tepid response to the case.

Small’s three other children continue to attend Colstrip schools in the same district as the boy suspected of shooting their brother, and have had to ride the bus with him, Small said. 

Colstrip Superintendent Rob Lewandowski declined to say whether the school had disciplined the student suspected in the shooting. 

"It’s outside the purview of the school, happened in a home, that’s all I know," he said. "I don’t know details. Law enforcement certainly protects details of minors."

Misty Pipe, Fisher’s aunt, said she, too, was frustrated with what she felt was a slow response to an incident in which her nephew was seriously injured.

“We need to show the kids that, if you play with guns and you pull the trigger, accident or not, you need to be responsible for the outcome of that,” Pipe said.

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.