Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On May 25, 2023, Missoula Police Department Officers were dispatched to a series of fires that started near South 3rd Street and Russell Street. One 911 caller provided a description of the male. An officer arrived in the area and observed a person matching the description at a gas station in the 400 block of Russell Street.  

The male, later identified as 24-year-old Sean Staples, was holding a gas can. The officer then contacted Staples and commanded him to drop the gas can. Instead of complying, Staples began walking towards the officer with the gas can in his hands and stated, “I’ll burn you”. Staples chased the officer around the area in a way that the officer believed Staples was attempting to douse the officer with gasoline. 

According to court documents, this continued for some time and the officer repeatedly commanded Staples to stop. Staples refused and continued to chase the officer. At one point, the officer retrieved his taser and deployed it, but missed.  

Another Officer Responds to Help 

The officer contacted additional law enforcement units and explained what was taking place. Another officer arrived on the scene and exited his vehicle. Staples walked towards him. The officer retrieved his taser and told Staples it would be used if Staples did not drop the gas can. 

Staples then pulled the gas can up to his chest, spread his feet, and appeared to be positioning himself to throw gasoline on the officer. The officer observed that the gas can did not have a cap on the spout and observed that Staples had a lighter in his hand underneath the gas can. 

The officer deployed his taser, which struck Staples and he was then placed into handcuffs. Both officers believed that they would be seriously injured or die as a result of being lit on fire based on Staples’ actions towards them. 

Officers Question Staples 

Staples was mirandized and admitted to starting fires. He also gave consent to search his backpack. Officers located multiple lighters and several other items of note, including a liquor bottle. Staples advised he was going to turn the liquor bottle into a “Molotov Cocktail”. 

Court documents indicate Staples also advised he informed the “FBI” that “I’m going to try to carbon monoxide poison people.” Staples informed officers that he stuffed socks into the white pipes of a couple of homes in Missoula. Law enforcement is still investigating this incident.  

Staples informed officers he was going to make a pressure cooker bomb as well. When asked about Staples’ goals, Staples responded he was, “basically be[ing] a menace.” 

Officers noted that several of the fires they observed on South 3rd Street were near businesses and residential properties. It is currently undetermined if any of the businesses or residences were occupied at the time the fires started. 

Staples is currently being charged with two counts of felony attempted assault on a peace officer and negligent arson. On May 26, 2023, Staples made his initial appearance in Missoula Justice Court and his bond was set at $100,000. 

The information in this article was obtained from sources that are publicly viewable.

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