Tornado rips through Montana city, damaging homes
BAKER, Mont. (AP) — A tornado has torn through a small city in eastern Montana, destroying several buildings and injuring a handful of people.
The Billings Gazette reports that the tornado touched down in Baker on Saturday evening. Baker Rural Fire Department Chief Tom Bruha says the storm severely damaged more than 30 homes and completely destroyed a half dozen.
Bruha says two of the volunteer firefighters were out of town getting married, but they returned to help search the wreckage.
One of the people rescued was a firefighter who was severely injured and taken to Billings for medical treatment.
Bruha says the American Red Cross responded but did not need to set up emergency shelter because all displaced people found a place to stay with friends and family or rented motel rooms.
Montana cities hold vigils for Orlando shooting victims
People expressed sympathy, sorrow, disbelief and anger during vigils held around the state to remember and honor the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The Rev. D. Gregory Smith, an openly gay Episcopal priest in Bozeman, says he’s tired of attending such events. He says gay people have a right to safety and a right to live their lives without fear.
The shooting early Sunday left 50 people dead — including the gunman — and injured 53 others.
In Billings, Liz Welch with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that she’s saddened by the violence, and angered. She urged people to help protect the rights and the safety of the gay community.
Vigils also were held Sunday evening in Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and Kalispell.
Man pleads guilty in prostitution of minor case
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Seattle man charged for his role in a prostitution operation that ended after authorities raided a Great Falls motel last year has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
The Great Falls Tribune reports Joseph Johnson pleaded guilty Monday to one count of aggravated promotion of prostitution. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors have agreed to drop a charge of sexual servitude of a child.
Court documents say Johnson and two 18-year-old co-defendants were involved in the sex trafficking of an underage girl.
Authorities had been alerted to the operation after ads promoting the prostitution were posted online.
One co-defendant, Francisco Johnson, was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors are recommending a 20-year term with seven years suspended for Joseph Johnson when he’s sentenced in August.
CEO of Glacier National Park Conservancy resigns
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The president and CEO of the Glacier National Park Conservancy has stepped down after three years with the fundraising organization.
Mark Preiss had served as the conservancy’s first and only chief officer since the group formed in 2013. Spokeswoman Amy Dempster says Preiss has resigned for personal reasons.
The position will remain vacant until the group’s board of directors hires a replacement.
Board Chairman Mo Stein says since Preiss became CEO, the organization’s fundraising efforts and project funding have grown by nearly 50 percent.
The conservancy was formed in January 2013 as the result of a merger between the Glacier Natural History Association and the Glacier National Park Fund.
Prison guard to plead guilty in drug smuggling case
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana State Prison guard plans to plead guilty in a drug smuggling case at the Deer Lodge facility.
Federal prosecutors say Martin reap smuggled methamphetamine and marijuana to prisoners from February 2015 until the end of this April.
A plea deal filed in U.S. District Court in Helena on Monday says Reap will plead guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for prosecutors dropping drug conspiracy, possession and distribution charges.
Prosecutors also will recommend a lighter sentence for Reap because he is taking responsibility for the crime, and could move to reduce it further if he provides them with substantial assistance in the investigation.
The indictment says Reap smuggled $5,000 or more worth of drugs to unnamed co-conspirators in the prison in exchange for payments of $5,000 or more.
Earthquake shakes lightly populated area in Montana, Idaho
WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. (AP) — Officials say no damage has been reported following 4.3-magnitude earthquake Monday morning in a lightly populated area in western Montana just north of the Idaho border.
The West Yellowstone Police Department in Montana and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho say no calls have come in following the temblor that the U.S. Geological Survey says occurred at 5:15 a.m. near Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
A refuge employee reports no damage.
An employee at nearby Henrys Lake State Park in Idaho says no damage has been reported there either but one worker awoke thinking a bear was shaking his cabin.