A trial date has been scheduled in the case of a Kalispell war veteran who sued after he was shot by two Kalispell Police Department officers inside his home more than four years ago.
Ryan Pengelly, 35, filed a lawsuit in January 2019 against the city of Kalispell and Flathead County, along with Kalispell Police Officers Chad Zimmerman and Eric Brinton, and Sheriff’s Deputies Geno Cook and Kipp Tkachyk.
Court documents dated March 19 indicate U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled some parts of the case could be determined through summary judgments, but a jury would decide other parts of the suit.
Some parts of the suit were dismissed, including claims made against Flathead County, Cook and Tkachyk. Both officers investigated the shooting.
Pengelly is seeking damages to compensate him for lost wages, emotional distress and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. He argues the officer violated his constitutional rights by entering a home without a warrant and using excessive force.
In the incident that started the proceedings, Pengelly was shot four times by Zimmerman and Brinton during an armed confrontation Jan. 12, 2016, as they attempted to take his mother, Bonnie, into custody at their residence on Looking Glass Avenue.
The lawsuit alleges both Kalispell police officers entered the home without an arrest warrant for Pengelly’s mother, who had well-documented mental-health issues.
According to court documents, Brinton, who had been in law enforcement less than two years, received information that Bonnie was threatening to do harm to herself or her “daughter-in-law.” When he spoke to Bonnie’s supervisor at work, she said the threat wasn’t imminent, but she “just wanted the police to look into it.”
According to the complaint, one of Bonnie’s co-workers told Brinton her son owned military-grade weapons. It also claims Brinton told Zimmerman he intended to arrest Pengelly’s mother, despite Zimmerman allegedly saying “99.9 percent of the time” these reports are “just someone running their mouth.”
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges when Zimmerman and Brinton arrived at Pengelly’s residence and spoke with his mother, they didn’t identify themselves as police officers, why they were there and didn’t turn on their audio recorders.
Court filings also assert that after they completed their investigation, Tkachyk and Cook didn’t recommend filing charges against Pengelly because he didn’t know Zimmerman and Brinton were police officers.
But Deputy County Attorney Stacey Boman disagreed and charges were filed against Pengelly for felony assault on a peace officer. The charges were ultimately dismissed with prejudice upon Boman’s own motion.
At the time, Peter Leander, Pengelly’s attorney, successfully argued that police officers didn’t give him enough time to react to an order to drop his weapon before shooting him.
Leander said the shots were fired almost simultaneously with the order to drop the gun and that the officers did not announce themselves as police.
The home where the shooting occurred was built by the nonprofit organization Operation Finally Home in 2012 and 2013.
The project provides mortgage-free American-made homes to disabled veterans. At the time, Pengelly — a decorated Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — had lost his home and military service medals in a Whitefish area house fire. He suffered a traumatic brain injury from a bomb blast in Iraq in 2008.
Leander said much of what went into the dismissal involved Pengelly’s personal history, including the brain injury.
It also alleges when Pengelly heard the commotion, he came out of his bedroom with a rifle, and that Brinton said he heard Zimmerman yell something and heard his gun fire several times. Brinton allegedly fired several times at Pengelly when Zimmerman stopped shooting.
The suit said Pengelly was shot four times with .45-caliber, hollow-point bullets and he suffered a severed pancreas and liver and several internal organs were “severely traumatized.”
Pengelly was hooked up to several medical support systems, according to the lawsuit, which also notes Pengelly has “undergone hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical treatments and has suffered significant, prolonged, physical pain and suffering and emotional distress from being shot four times.”
The trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday, June 29, in Missoula.
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