- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Billings man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for shooting another man to death, apparently during an argument about a stolen gun and pit bull puppy.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Mahpevana-Hane (mah-puh-VON’-uh-Hayne) Lorne Bearcomesout on Thursday for the October 2013 shooting death of 32-year-old Misael Santiago, The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1xI9yPf ) reports.

“I took a life, and I take responsibility for that because that’s what a man does,” Bearcomesout said, adding that he’s trying to be a better man while struggling with alcohol and mental illness.

Baugh sentenced Bearcomesout to 50 years in prison with 10 suspended and ruled he would be eligible for parole when he turns 50.

Baugh, the prosecutor and a police detective lamented that the shooting could have been avoided.

Bearcomesout, 36, confronted Santiago about the puppy around 2 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2013.

“Based on the evidence at the scene, it appears (Santiago) was going to the garage to retrieve the dog, just like Mr. Bearcomesout asked,” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza said Thursday. “And, for no reason, Mr. Bearcomesout draws his .45, racks a round into the chamber and then shoots an unarmed man.”

Santiago was shot three times.

Police Detective Brian Krivitz testified that Santiago was paralyzed and bled to death in the driveway.

“I don’t understand why this whole situation (couldn’t) be mediated by law enforcement, if it’s truly about a dog,” the detective said. “The dog could have been retrieved by police within a matter of 10 minutes.”

At the time, Bearcomesout had been released from jail with conditions, including not drinking, for allegedly punching and choking his common-law wife in May 2013.

Baugh said if there was a way for the court to set things right, he would do it.

“One of the things we probably ought to do as a society is keep better track of people with mental health issues and make sure those are properly treated and that they don’t have access to weapons,” Baugh said. “We don’t do a very good job of that.”

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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