GREAT FALLS — Harrison Garrett Alvarez of Cut Bank, an off-duty federal law enforcement officer accused of pointing a rifle at three Blackfeet tribal employees who were testing water on his property, admitted to assault charges in federal court in Great Falls on Thursday, according to a news release from Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson.
Alvarez, 30 years old, who is a Customs & Border Protection officer, pleaded guilty to three counts of simple assault.
Prosecutors allege that on July 24, 2019, three employees of the Blackfeet Tribe’s Environmental Office went to Alvarez’s property outside of Cut Bank, and within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, to field test water in Cut Bank Creek.
The victims traveled by truck past Alvarez’s house to the creek. The trip was the victims’ fourth time to that testing site that season, having requested, and they believed received, permission for the testing from Alvarez’s wife.
The government alleged that as the victims were collecting water samples, a rifle shot rang out. Court documents state:
As they were collecting water samples, a rifle shot rang out. They looked up from the river to see the defendant coming down the hill pointing an assault rifle at them and yelling at them. He demanded to know what they were doing and who had given them permission to be there.
When they explained that Alvarez's wife had given them permission to collect samples, Alvarez disputed that fact. Even after they told him they would go, Alvarez, while still leveling the rifle at the victims, ordered them closer to him and demanded they drop their equipment.
When Alvarez finally allowed the victims to leave, he reportedly told them that now they knew he “shoots first, asks questions later.” All three victims believed Alvarez was going to shoot them.
The government further alleged that Alvarez disputed the victims had permission to be on the property but admitted to discharging the rifle before holding them at gunpoint and ordering them to leave his property.
Alvarez’s wife remembered that the victims had requested permission but told law enforcement she had told them they needed to speak with Alvarez. Upon seeing the truck on the morning of the incident, Alvarez’s wife told him that it was probably “the water people.”
Alvarez faces up to six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, and one year of supervised release on each count. In a plea agreement in the case, the parties concur that a five-year term of probation is appropriate.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided, and scheduled sentencing for November 18.
Alvarez was released pending further proceedings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kalah A. Paisley is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services.