GREAT FALLS – An off-duty federal law enforcement officer accused of pointing an assault rifle at three Blackfeet tribal employees who were testing water on his property admitted simple assault charges today, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Harrison Garrett Alvarez, 30, of Cut Bank, who is a Customs and Border Protection officer, pleaded guilty to three counts of simple assault as charged in a superseding information. Alvarez faces a maximum six months in prison, a $5,000 fine and one year of supervised release on each count. In a plea agreement in the case, the parties concur that a five-year term of probation is appropriate.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Sentencing was set for Nov. 18. Alvarez was released pending further proceedings.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on July 24, 2019, three employees of the Blackfeet Tribe’s Environmental Office went to Alvarez’s property outside of Cut Bank, and within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, to field test water in Cut Bank Creek. The victims, who are tribal members, traveled by truck past Alvarez’s house to the creek. The trip was the victims’ fourth time to that testing site that season, having sought, and they believed received, permission for the testing from Alvarez’s wife.
The government alleged that as the victims were collecting water samples, a rifle shot rang out. The victims saw Alvarez approaching, pointing an assault rifle at them and yelling. Alvarez demanded to know what they were doing and who had given them permission to be there. When the victims explained that his wife had given them permission to collect samples, Alvarez disputed that fact. Even after they told him they would go, Alvarez, while still leveling the rifle at the victims, ordered them closer to him and demanded they drop their equipment. When Alvarez finally allowed the victims to leave, he told them that now they knew he “shoots first, asks questions later.” All three victims believed Alvarez was going to shoot them.
The government further alleged that Alvarez disputed the victims had permission to be on the property but admitted to discharging the rifle before holding them at gunpoint and ordering them to leave his property. Alvarez’s wife remembered that the victims had sought permission but told law enforcement she had told them they needed to speak with Alvarez. Upon seeing the truck on the morning of the incident, Alvarez’s wife told him that it was probably “the water people.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kalah A. Paisley is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services.