NewsCrime and Courts


Montana man sentenced to 30 years for shooting 2 in Hardin

Posted at 4:12 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 18:12:22-04

A Billings man was sentenced Tuesday by a Big Horn County judge to 30 years in prison for shooting two people at the Love's truck stop in Hardin in the fall of 2019, according to Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris.

Gary Jackson Hugs Jr., 31, had pleaded guilty to two felony charges of assault with a weapon on April 12, according to Harris.

Big Horn County District Court Judge Matthew J. Wald sentenced Hugs Jr. to consecutive 15-year sentences, one for each charge. He was already serving a 15-year sentence, with 10 years suspended, for an assault with a weapon charge in Yellowstone County.

On Oct. 25, 2019, Hugs Jr. shot one man in the face and another three times in the abdomen outside the truck stop. During the incident, an off-duty Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden, Jacob Barzon, fired at Hugs Jr. in an attempt to defend the two men who were shot.

Both men were severely injured but recovered.

Here's the full news release from Harris:

Hardin, MT —On June 14, 2022, Big Horn County District Court Judge Matthew J. Wald sentenced Gary Jackson Hugs, Jr., a 31-year old Billings man, to consecutive 15-year prison sentences, following a sentencing hearing in Montana Twenty-Second Judicial District Court, Big Horn County, Cause No. DC 2019-96.

Hugs, Jr. was arrested by the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office on October 25, 2019 and was subsequently charged with two counts of Attempted Deliberate Homicide by the Big Horn County Attorney’s Office following a joint Big Horn County-Yellowstone County investigation
into the circumstances surrounding a shooting at the Love’s Truck Stop in Hardin during the early morning hours of October 25, 2019.

The joint investigation revealed that Hugs shot an adult male identifiable as “T.O.C.” in the face and an adult male identifiable as “R.L.H.” three times in the abdomen at the Love’s truck stop fuel pumps, causing severe injury to both. An on-duty Montana game warden was putting in fuel at the time and was forced to open fire against Hugs, Jr. to defend the two persons shot.

Hugs, Jr. had pleaded guilty to two counts of Assault with a Weapon, per the terms of a plea agreement, on April 12, 2022. The State recommended Hugs, Jr. receive a total of 40 years imprisonment with 10 years suspended. Defense counsel recommended a total of 15 years in prison with 10 years suspended. In explaining the judgment, which called for all counts to run consecutive to each other and consecutive to a 2021 sentence in Yellowstone County District Court for Assault with a Weapon in which the Defendant received a 15-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended, District Judge Wald noted that in consideration of Montana law governing sentencing, public safety was the Court’s paramount concern. The Court acknowledged Hugs had taken responsibility for the offenses but also made specific reference to the caliber of the handgun used in the commission of the offense, the lack of evidence to support self-defense or defense of others, and the criminal history of Hugs, which included a conviction in federal court for a 2011 Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury in Lodge Grass. The Court did not restrict parole access for Hugs in the sentence and judgment. During the sentencing hearing, Hugs expressed remorse for his actions and apologized to the family of the victims.

Hugs has remained in custody since his 2019 arrest.