Bond for Missoula shooting suspect set at $2 million; law officers fill courtroom

(KPAX) It’s a bond only those in local law enforcement can explain. When tragedy hits close to home, it’s the overwhelming amount of support that brings them all together.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers across the state gathered at the Missoula County Courthouse Monday to back their brother, Trooper Wade Palmer, who is currently fighting for his life after being critically wounded in a Friday shooting in Evaro.

Montana Highway Patrol troopers, Missoula County sheriff’s deputies and multiple other law enforcement agencies filtered into the courtroom.

“It’s just been very difficult,” said MHP Trooper Chad Dever. “Wade is an amazing family man, a friend and a trooper. It’s just been really rough. All we can do is pray. He’s a fighters and he’s fighting as expected, so we are just praying for him.”

The assembled officers were there to stand watch as the suspect in a series of shootings that left one man dead and three more people injured, including Palmer, made his initial appearance in Missoula County Justice Court.

Johnathan Bertsch faces one count of deliberate homicide for the death of Shelley Hayes, as well as three counts of attempted deliberate homicide, in connection with the shootings.

Bertsch’s bond was set at $2 million.

Palmer remains in critical condition at a Salt Lake City hospital where he was airlifted Friday afternoon

Just as Utah officers are standing outside Palmer’s hospital room, Montana law enforcement officers were in the Missoula courtroom in a show of solidarity.

“We are a big family and when this happens, even though Trooper Palmer works for Highway Patrol, we have his back and we’re here to support him and his family through this horrific ordeal,” said Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott.

Dever added that the amount of support was no surprise, and it’s just what family does.

“To be honest, we are all very close. It’s just they are like our brothers and sisters down there and they are treating us the same,” Dever said. “We just really appreciate it.”


Several fundraising efforts have been launched since Friday to help the victims in the shooting:

You can click here to donate to a GoFundMe page in support of Trooper Palmer.

To help the family of Shelley Hayes, who was killed in one of the shootings, click here. 

To help Casey Blanchard, who was also wounded, click here.

Law enforcement vehicles lined the street near Missoula County Justice court on Monday. (Missoula County photo)