GREAT FALLS — A former off-duty federal law enforcement officer who admitted to misdemeanor assault for pointing a rifle at Blackfeet tribal employees who were testing water on his property was sentenced in federal court in Great Falls on Monday, November 22, 2021.
30-year-old Harrison Garrett Alvarez of Cut Bank was a Customs & Border Protection officer at the time of the offense; he pleaded guilty in July to three counts of simple assault.
Prosecutors alleged that on July 24, 2019, three employees of the Blackfeet Tribe’s Environmental Office went to Alvarez’s property near Cut Bank — within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation - to test water in Cut Bank Creek.
The victims, who are tribal members, traveled by truck past Alvarez’s house to the creek. The trip was the victims’ fourth time that season to the testing site, after having sought — and they believed received - permission for the testing from Alvarez’s wife.
While the victims were collecting water samples, a rifle shot rang out. The victims saw Alvarez approaching, pointing a rifle at them and yelling profanities.
Alvarez demanded to know what they were doing and who had given them permission to be there. When the victims explained that his wife had given them permission, Alvarez disputed that fact.
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.”
Even after the victims told him they would leave, Alvarez, while still leveling the rifle at them, ordered them closer and demanded they drop their equipment. When Alvarez finally allowed them to leave, he told them that now they knew he “shoots first, asks questions later.”
All three victims believed Alvarez was going to shoot them and that they were going to die. All three victims addressed the Court at sentencing and talked about the lasting effect this assault has had on them.
“He has taken my outdoor lifestyle away from me,” one of the victims told the Court. “I don’t fish. I don’t go get wood. No more hiking. No more bow-hunting. No more four-wheeling.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and sentenced Alvarez to five years of probation, and ordered him to pay $10,626 in restitution, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a news release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kalah Paisley prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services.