The names of the three people who were killed at a casino in Great Falls on Tuesday have been released.
Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says the three have been identified as Cheryl Ann Larson, 53 years old; Wendy Joanne Carlson, 60; and Steve Mitchell Hale, 61. All were from the Great Falls area. We have not yet been able to confirm whether any of them were employees or customers at the casino.
In addition, Ricky Lee Gardipee has been identified as the suspect in the three murders. Petroleum County Coroner RJ Brown released the name on Wednesday morning.
Gardipee, 41 years old, was shot by Deputy U.S. Marshals on 26th Street South near 7th Avenue South at about 5:40 a.m. His body was taken to the Montana Crime Lab in Billings for autopsy on Wednesday. The Montana Department of Corrections website shows that Gardipee had convictions in Cascade County and Lewis & Clark County for robbery, theft, burglary, assault on a peace officer, forgery, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and failure to register as a violent offender.
Another victim remains hospitalized at Benefis Health System. A family member told KRTV that he was shot in the face and managed to take himself to Benefis. She said he underwent surgery last night and is doing well. She added, "He will have a few more surgeries and the have his jaw wired shut for approximately six weeks. Hospitalized in ICU, if all goes well and according to plan he should be home in about a week."
Authorities have not released information about the possible motive for the deaths, such as an attempted robbery or other reasons, and are continuing to investigate. We will keep you updated.
(DECEMBER 17, 2019) Law enforcement officers are continuing to investigate after three people were found dead in a Great Falls casino early Tuesday. A news conference was held on Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on the investigation (full video included below).
A 911 call just after 2 a.m. requested emergency medical assistance at the Emerald Casino at 1701 10th Avenue South; a person was said to be bleeding from his face. When police officers and paramedics arrived, they found three people dead inside. A fourth victim was identified a short time later at Benefis Health System; that person is said to be recovering from a gunshot wound. There is no word yet on when or how he arrived at the hospital.
Police immediately began searching for the suspect, and at about 5:45 a.m., they found the suspect in the area of 7th Avenue South and 26th Street; the GFPD said that shots were fired, and the suspect - who was armed - was shot and killed by law enforcement officers.
Joshua Copeland said that his family was woken up by sounds of the suspect attempting to enter their home. Copeland said although the situation was intense, he wanted to make sure his family was safe as well.
Copeland said, "It was extremely loud and violent. It wasn't a polite knock like somebody was here to visit. And so I got up to see what was going on and started checking the rest of my house to make sure that nobody was in my house and I could hear police sirens throughout the neighborhood going off. So I told my wife to call 911, that whoever they were looking for was trying to get into our house."
He continued, "Once we called 911 and realized it was a serious incident and I could hear on the background on the radio that guns were involved and everything, that's when I wanted to move my family to the basement, to the safest spot possible."
The names of the victims have not yet been released, pending notification of family members. The name of the suspect has not yet been released. Authorities have not released information about the possible motive for the deaths, such as an attempted robbery or other reasons.
The Great Falls Police Department is leading the investigation into the murders. The Division of Criminal Investigation, an agency of the Montana Department of Justice, is leading the investigation into the shooting of the suspect. Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said that the investigation is complex and will take some time. Fergus County Coroner Dick Brown will conduct the coroner's inquest. Agencies involved in the search for the suspect included the Great Falls Police Department, the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the US Marshals Service, Montana Probation & Parole, and the FBI.
Police ask that anyone with information about the deaths or the suspect call the GFPD at 406-455-8519. You can also visit P3TIPS.com to provide tips, and may remain anonymous.
Lincoln Elementary School was closed on Tuesday due to the investigation; the school is in the area where the suspect was shot. No other public schools were affected by the event. The Paris Gibson Education Center opened their doors to Lincoln staff, students, and families during the closure. School at Lincoln will resume normal operations on Wednesday.
The Lincoln Elementary School Holiday Program has been rescheduled for Friday, December 20th as follows: Kindergarten – 1:00 pm; First Grade – 1:30 pm; Second Grade – 2:00 pm; Third Grade – 2:30 pm.