BUTTE – A 52-year-old man from Spokane remains in custody in Butte after a nine-hour standoff with police Wednesday where he’s accused of hijacking a bus.
MTN News spoke exclusively with hostage Dameane Baumgartner who says when he saw the bus driver run out of the vehicle after it stopped in Butte, he knew something was wrong.
“All the sudden this guy, he had this hat with a pistol inside of it, and he put it in my face and said ‘sit down or die,’” said Baumgartner in an exclusive interview with MTN News on Thursday.
Thus began a three-hour long standoff with police inside a Jefferson Lines bus. Dameane, who was returning to Butte after a doctors appointment in Missoula, thought this was the end.
“He told me we were both going to die today. And the reason he ordered a meal was so that I could have my last meal because he already ate his,” said Baumgartner.
Police left food in the doorway of the bus and that’s when Dameane took a big chance.
“I said, ‘hey let me just reach down and grab it,’ and when I started to move forward our bodies became separated and felt that chance and spun around and punched him as hard as I could and ran out the bus and I escaped,” he recalled.
Dameane said he sympathized with his captor.
“He wanted a voice, he wanted to be heard he wanted to be the white male that’s homeless that isn’t allowed to get help. He was a conservative, looking for a conservative place to go which is why he chose Montana and I told him ‘so you chose Butte to get off in,’” he laughed.
But Dameane indicated the extremely traumatic situation didn’t leave him harboring any ill will or anger toward his captor.
“I don’t think he’s a monster, I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I think this guy was really sick I think he was confused in his head and unfortunately this is the way he handled it,” Baumgartner said.
Dameane said he’s been homeless, abused drugs and has a criminal record, so he can relate to the man who held him at gunpoint. Now, he has a new perspective on life.
“I’m grateful to be alive, I’m grateful that I’ve had a wife, I’m grateful for even all the prison time I’ve done. I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through and I’m grateful that I’m here talking to you today,” he said.
The suspect’s name has not been released. He’s expected to appear in court Friday.
-John Emeigh reporting for MTN News