- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said she has determined that a deputy was justified when he shot at a man who was driving his car toward the officer.

Pabst announced her findings Tuesday, the same day the Missoulian reported that the wives of two deputies were participating in ride-alongs on New Year’s Eve when Capt. Tony Rio shot and seriously injured a suspect in a domestic assault case.

Undersheriff Jason Johnson told the newspaper (https://bit.ly/1Ac0JNq) that his 13-year-old son was riding with yet another deputy who arrived at the scene in Evaro after Rio shot 42-year-old Eugene Statelen in the shoulder and head.

Statelen was released from the hospital on Jan. 5 and is charged with two counts of assault on a peace officer, assault with a weapon and two misdemeanors. He was released from jail after posting a $50,000 bond.

Before filing charges against Statelen, Pabst said she determined that Rio’s actions were taken to prevent injury to others and further injury to himself.

The wives of Rio and acting Sgt. Jace Dicken were riding along with their husbands because it was the officers’ last night on patrol, Johnson said. He said that his own son had been bugging him for some time to go on a ride-along and was with Deputy Justin Uriarte.

All three ride-alongs were approved beforehand.

According to court records, Rio and Dicken responded to a domestic violence report late Dec. 31 when they encountered Statelen in his vehicle. Rio parked his patrol car and attempted to approach Statelen on foot because his wife was in the patrol car with him. Statelen kept driving forward and refused Rio’s demands that he stop.

Rio said he lost his footing as he moved toward the passenger side of the car and was afraid he would be run over. He fired his weapon through the passenger side window and then through the back window, according to the records.

Rio, Dicken and Uriarte were put on paid leave. Uriarte and Dicken were scheduled to return to work this week, while Rio will return after further investigation and a fitness-for-duty examination conducted by a psychologist, Sheriff T.J. McDermott said.

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Information from: Missoulian, https://www.missoulian.com

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