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Montana principal praised for protecting students

Russ McDaniel and Sheriff Slaughter
Russ McDaniel
Posted at 11:36 AM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 13:36:28-05

ULM - The intersection of Frontage Rd. and the I-15 ramp in Ulm is roughly where Ulm School principal Russ McDaniel witnessed an attempted carjacking back in October during a high-speed chase down I-15.

When he recognized what was going on, he quickly jumped into action and for that, he is being recognized by Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter.

As McDaniel climbed into his SUV at the school Friday — a stone's throw from I-15 — he can still remember what happened nearly two months to the day earlier on October 17.

Russ McDaniel
Russ McDaniel

"I was right about here,” McDaniel recalled as he drove to the area where he witnessed the attempted carjacking.

In the afternoon on that October day, McDaniel was driving to the post office.

"I'm just kind of looking to make sure no cars are coming. The gun goes off and I look up and, obviously, on the on-ramp, there's two cars,” said McDaniel.

According to the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the gun was fired by Santana Ledeau at the driver he was attempting to carjack as he was running from police after a disturbance involving a gun at a motel in Great Falls.

October 2022 attempted carjacking

"I just kind of pulled into the middle of the road. I didn't want (the suspect) coming up our way. I called 911 and then at that time the guy who was shot at, I see him driving coming towards me so I'm assuming he's okay but I don't know. He pulled over and we talked to 911 for a little while and then, after talking to 911, I hurried back to the school to put it under lockdown,” McDaniel explained.

On Dec. 13, Slaughter presented McDaniel with a Community Hero Award plaque.

"This is a person who probably doesn't have any tactical training and probably doesn't have any tools but doesn't care anyway and is still willing to protect the children in that school,” Slaughter said.

On the Facebook page for the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Slaughter noted:

Russ took action and called 911, he put his school in lockdown, and parked his car on the roadway creating a roadblock to prevent the suspect from getting closer to the school. Thankfully the suspect drove the other direction. After the suspect fled the scene, Russ is heard on the 911 call saying “I’d be happy to run him down for ya.”

Slaughter added this is an example of why he's a big advocate of a robust school safety program.

"These principals and teachers will absolutely give their lives up for these students and they should have some way to be able to protect themselves and protect their students and most times they don’t,” said Slaughter.

Russ McDaniel and Sheriff Slaughter
Russ McDaniel and Sheriff Slaughter

"I don't want it to come across as 'look at me,’” McDaniel said as he laid the plaque on his desk in his school office.

He wanted to give credit to the school staff for how they responded when he put the school on lockdown.

"The staff really stepped up and did an amazing job. I wish I could've filmed it. It would've been an excellent training for other schools,” McDaniel emphasized. "Parents send their kids to school, first and foremost they want their kids safe. they want them to be belonging. At that point, then we can start teaching them so making our kids safe and happy at school is our first priority."

When asked if he considers himself a hero, McDaniel said no because he feels he was just doing what any school administrator would do.

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