Shermani Brown was picking up her 5-year-old daughter from school on Monday, holding her hand as they walked across the street back to her car.
Like a lot of the parents, she parks on the opposite side of the street from McKinley Elementary and walks across, past the buses, to pick up her daughter.
But as they were walking back, something seemed off. Her car had been moved a bit, and an unknown man stepped out. Brown's mind was racing, wondering if she was maybe looking at the wrong vehicle.
"I realized what was actually happening, because he actually moved my car," said Brown, 28.
Brown's other daughter, a 2-year-old, was in the back seat of the vehicle.
She said she left her car for seconds to walk across the street, but in that time Donald Leslie Thompson, 38, allegedly hopped in and tried to drive off. He apparently stopped when he realized a child was in the back.
Brown said Thompson began apologizing, saying he didn't know a child was inside. She was furious, screaming and blocking Thompson, who was trying to ride off on a bicycle.
“I stood over his bicycle, had my legs over the wheel and my hands on the handle bars,” she said.
Then Thompson said he had a gun and would use it, according to Brown and court documents. Then he started riding away.
Brown was calling for help, and a local contractor named Jonny Dupont was nearby.
Dupont was picking up his son from school. The family had recently moved, and it was his last day sending his son to McKinley. He didn't even usually park on that side of the school.
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"Normally I don’t park at that spot," he said. "Normally I park up the street on a side street.”
He said when he saw Brown screaming, he knew something was wrong. She pointed toward a man riding a bicycle toward Grand Avenue. She asked for someone to stop him.
Dupont said he took off in his pickup and got in front of Thompson.
“I kind of blocked him from going anywhere, and he smashed into my truck with his bicycle," he said.
Court documents say Dupont "detained" Thompson. Dupont said that while he was pinning the man down, onlookers thought it was a fight that needed to be broken up. He said he explained the situation and they helped until the police arrived.
“He told me he had a weapon," Dupont said. "He said, ‘I have a weapon, you better back away.’”
Court documents say that no weapon was found on Thompson, and he refused to provide a statement.
He was arrested and appeared Tuesday in Yellowstone County Justice Court on charges of felony attempted theft and misdemeanor assault.
Thompson was recently released on probation after serving prison time for a 2008 aggravated assault charge. He was later convicted for attempting to escape from a Butte prerelease facility.
During Tuesday's hearing, Thompson was given a $50,000 bond and was scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 27 in Yellowstone County District Court.
Brown said she feels a bit shaken.
"At my kid's school would be the last place I would think to feel unsafe with something like that,” she said.
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