Thursday, October 16, 2014

Details of Bear Spray/Handgun Defense case in Glacier Park

On 26 July, 2014, 57-year-old Brian D. Murphy defended himself against a charging grizzly in Glacier National Park.  The case is interesting for a number of reasons.  Two months after the attack, Murphy was charged with discharging a firearm in Glacier Park, a misdemeanor that carries a $500 fine.   On 9 October, a motion to dismiss the charge was put forward by the U.S. Attorney's Office after Murphy's attorney said that they would raise the  defense of self-defense.    Judge Keith Strong granted the motion last Thursday.  From
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dismissed the charge against 57-year-old Brian D. Murphy.

The charge was dismissed with prejudice, meaning a final determination has been made based on the merits of the case. Murphy cannot be re-charged at a later date.

Murphy’s attorney, Jason T. Holden of Great Falls, called it a “perfect scenario to have a case dismissed with prejudice.”
DNA samples of blood and hair taken at the scene confirmed that the bear was a grizzly.  Murphy had time to ready both defenses because he had seen the bear running toward other hikers.  When he yelled to warn them, the bear turned and came straight at him.

Murphy first sprayed bear spray at the bear when it was 15 to 25 feet away, firing one shot from his .357 revolver when the bear had approached to within 7-10 feet.  The bear was charging uphill at the time.     He only fired one round at the bear, which fell back and stopped moving when shot.   Many have suggested that he should have continued firing, but it is hard to argue with success.
The hiker, who was alone at the time, was not injured. He turned over the revolver to rangers, who reported it contained five unspent rounds and one spent casing.
It appears that Murphy was defending others as well as himself.  He quickly retreated back down the trail. 
“The bear fell back and was motionless,” Holden said. Murphy “withdrew and double-timed it out of there, taking the two hikers who were behind him with him. He stopped everyone else on the trail, too, told the first ranger he came to what had happened, and fully and voluntarily cooperated with rangers.”
The bear was apparently stunned, because it had left the area by the time rangers examined the scene.

A charging grizzly, bear spray, short range defense with a .357 revolver; then bogus charges brought two months later, only to be immediately dismissed by a U.S. attorney and federal magistrate.  This case is one that will be remembered and discussed for a long time. 

A warning was issued to a hiker that used a gunshot to summon aid a couple of weeks after the grizzly attack. 

 ©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

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