It was an intimidating yet inspiring sight.

Over one hundred uniformed law enforcement personnel from agencies across western Montana attended the initial court appearance of 29 year-old Jonathan Bertsch, the man who allegedly shot and killed one man, wounded a mother and her son, and then shot and critically wounded Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer late Thursday night.

There were so many police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Highway Patrol troopers that the court appearance had to be moved out of Justice Court to Judge John Larson’s Courtroom Number Three on the third floor of the Missoula County Courthouse, where Markus Kaarma was found guilty of murder several years ago.

Justice of the Peace Alex Beal spoke to Bertsch via video from the Missoula County Jail while over a hundred pairs of eyes gazed intently at the screen as Bertsch answered questions from Judge Beal primarily by saying ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘no sir’.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks spoke for the state.

“With regard to bail, the State is requesting that the court set bail at two million dollars,” said Marks. “Should he post that bail, we request that he be placed on pretrial supervision, that he be prohibited from possessing any weapons or reside anywhere where he has access to weapons, and that he have no contact with the victims or the victims’ families.”

Judge Beal set bail at two million dollars and ordered Bertsch to appear again in Justice Court on March 27.

Following the court hearing, Montana Highway Patrol Captain Chad Dever responded to the display of solidarity show by the law enforcement community behind the wounded trooper.

“It’s just amazing the brotherhood that we see at our times of need like this and words aren’t enough to say how much it means to us on the Highway Patrol,” said Dever as one by one he shook hands with each law enforcement member as they exited the courtroom. “To be honest, we’re devastated right now,” he continued. “We’re just happy that Wade is a fighter and he’s fighting right now. We’re just praying that he gets better, and that’s about all we can do.”

Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott commented on the last few days and the impact they have had on his department.

“This is a true tragedy for our community,” said McDermott. “We not only lost a community member but one of our law enforcement community members, Trooper Wade Palmer being shot was very difficult on everyone involved. You saw a huge sign of support here today. From our office deputies, detention officers, we had sheriff’s deputies from Ravalli County, Lewis and Clark County, Lake County attended as well, and we’re here because we support each other. In these tragedies, we’re reminded that law enforcement is one big family and we have Trooper Palmer’s back. It’s been a difficult last couple of days, but we’re here to show support for him as well as a member of our community that lost his life as well.”

Bertsch was remanded back to the Missoula County Jail, charged with one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide, with each count carrying a possible life sentence in the Montana State Prison.


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