Montana Man Sentenced To 18 Years After Using Assault Weapon In Crusade To “Clean Out” His Town Of LGBTQs
From the Justice Department:
A Montana man was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris to 18 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for shooting into a residence and attempting to shoot others with the intent of ridding a town of LGBTQI+ residents.
John Russell Howald, of Basin, was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 17 of a hate crime involving an attempt to kill and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence for firing an AK-style rifle at the residence of a woman who was known within the town as lesbian and was home at the time, and then walking further into town intending to target others he perceived to be lesbian, queer, and gay. The trial lasted four days.
“This defendant is being held accountable for his horrific attempted mass shooting against the LGBTQI+ community in a Montana town,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Howald set out to rid the town of all LGBTQI+ members by killing them. He shot into the home of a lesbian resident, nearly killing her, with the hope of inspiring similar attacks around the country. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be free from hate-fueled violence. This Pride Month, we affirm our commitment to using the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act to hold perpetrators of hate-fueled violence targeting the LGBTQI+ community accountable.”
According to court documents, on March 22, 2020, Howald went on a self-described mission to rid the town of Basin of its lesbian, queer and gay community.
Howald was armed with two assault rifles, a hunting rifle, two pistols and multiple high-capacity magazines that were taped together to speed reloading. Howald walked to the first victim’s residence and fired multiple rounds from an AK-style rifle into her property and home, all because of his belief regarding her sexual orientation.
Hoping he had killed her, Howald set off toward other houses occupied by people who identify as lesbian, queer or gay.
Local residents, who knew Howald and happened to be leaving church, stalled him long enough for a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputy to respond and inadvertently recorded Howald yelling and firing more rounds with the same rifle, expressing his hatred toward the community’s gay and lesbian residents and his determination to “clean” them from his town.
When the deputy arrived, Howald pointed the AK-style rifle at the officer, nearly starting a shootout in downtown Basin, and then fled into the hills, firing at least one round as he went.
Law enforcement arrested Howald the next day and found him armed with a loaded pistol and a knife. In Howald’s car, officers found an AR-style rifle and a revolver. During a search of Howald’s camper, officers found an AK-style rifle, a hunting rifle, and ammunition.