Manhunt over: Shaunesy Cole arrested on attempted murder charges

By: 
Johnathan Hettinger, Enterprise Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Authorities from more than a dozen agencies park their vehicles on Quinn Creek Road west of Livingston, Thursday morning. The agencies set up a command station near the Park and Gallatin county border in the search for Shaunesy Cole, who was wanted for attempted homicide.

Troopers with the Montana Highway Patrol assist in the security checkpoint for residents of Quinn Creek Road on Thursday west of Livingston. 

Shaunesy Cole

 

Police have arrested a 36-year-old man on charges of attempted murder after a two-day long manhunt that Sheriff Scott Hamilton called the biggest law enforcement effort in his 31 years in Park County. 

Shaunesy Cole was arrested after 1 p.m. Thursday, after a woman who lived on Quinn Creek called law enforcement saying he was at her front door and attempting to break into her house.

After police responded to the call with situation-response teams and dogs, Cole attempted to run, but he was bitten by a dog, Hamilton said. It is not known how severe the bite is, though he was being treated at the scene and will likely be transferred to an area hospital. 

The response team included more than 50 special reaction team police officers from across Montana continued the manhunt Thursday morning, doing a systematic search going from house to house, outbuilding to outbuilding, walking down the mountain at Quinn Creek road on the border of Gallatin and Park counties on the Bozeman Pass. 

“We’re ready, we’re ready now,” Hamilton said Thursday morning.

At least two helicopters, with thermal imaging, hovered above the effort, seeing if the officers were driving anyone out of the buildings.

Cole, who had been on the run from police for at least two months and had $175,000 worth of warrants out for his arrest before Wednesday’s incident.

Hamilton said Thursday morning he had obtained a warrant for Cole on charges of attempted deliberate homicide. Cole already had felony convictions for assaulting a peace officer, theft and escape.

At around 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, the Park County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call of a potential drunk driver driving a white car with a damaged front end swerving on Interstate 90 traveling west. An officer pulled the vehicle over but the suspect, who also had a woman in the car, refused to get out of the car and fled the scene, Hamilton said. 

Afterward, the suspect led officers on a chase down the interstate that reached more than 100 mph, before heading up the frontage road and Quinn Creek Road. Officers tried to set up tire spikes but the suspect drove around them.

The suspect stuck something out the window that looked like a firearm, which he pulled back inside the vehicle, Hamilton said. Then the suspect stuck the object out again and officers heard what sounded like a shot, backed off and continued the pursuit from farther away, calling in additional units.

Jolene Burnham, a woman who was believed to have been with Cole in the car, was arrested Wednesday on charges of obstruction of justice, after driving back down the road. She also had a dog with her in the white car, which has been impounded. Burnham was booked into the Park County jail at 6:36 a.m. Wednesday.

A daylong manhunt on Wednesday yielded no results in the search for Cole, and officers regrouped Thursday morning, briefing at 7 a.m. and then sending out officers at 8 a.m. to do a systematic door-to-door search.

“This is a manhunt,” Hamilton said before the arrest. “This isn’t a regular search. This guy shot at my deputies. We’re going to hunt for him until we find him.”

Hamilton said they obtained permission for all searches and looking for signs of forced entry.

Residents of Quinn Creek Road were still able to access their homes, though they had to go through a checkpoint at the command station, which is located at the bottom of Quinn Creek, next to the frontage road, just north of the interstate.

Hamilton said he was greatly appreciative of all of the help the Park County Sheriff’s Department received from departments across the state: the Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Livingston police departments; the Gallatin, Lewis and Clark and Yellowstone county sheriff departments; the Federal Bureau of Investigations; Montana Highway Patrol; the U.S. Forest Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The National Park Service, Highway Patrol and Two Bear Air also donated helicopters for use. Police dogs were also on standby.

Hamilton said the rugged terrain of the search, as well as the action of shooting at law enforcement officers, made it a priority for departments.

“I’m so thankful,” Hamilton said. “This is Montana, none of us have the resources by ourselves, so we work together.”

Traci Isaly, a Quinn Creek resident who lives near the command station, said her house hadn’t yet been searched as of 11 a.m., and the manhunt looked to be concentrated in a specific area higher up the mountain.

“They started at the top, spread out in a line, like they’re bird hunting, and come down the mountain in one big sweep,” Isaly said prior to the suspect's arrest. “They’re searching not only the outside areas, but all the inside areas, and the helicopters are flying overhead to see if they’re flushing anything out.” 

Hamilton said Cole was the main suspect in a May motorcycle theft that led to a police pursuit from Livingston to Billings. Cole, who was joined by another person in that case, was also suspected of stealing money and jewelry in that incident.

Officers followed all leads, including going house to house and checking with residents. They also searched buildings and searching from the air. They followed up on tips, including a report of a hitchhiker in the area.

Cole, a white male, is about 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds. Cole has several tattoos, including one that says “outlaw” across his chest, and has a red mohawk that is currently pressed down. 

Jeff Brown, who lives about three and a half miles up Quinn Creek Road, said his home was searched by a SWAT team on Thursday morning. He said the team, dressed in camouflage fatigues and helmets, asked permission for the search, then came through the house with their automatic guns drawn, searching every room. He said the search lasted about five minutes.

“It was just like you’d see in a military operation,” Brown said.

Brown said that he was supposed to have concrete poured for a new garage he is building at his home on Thursday but delayed the work because of road conditions and the manhunt.

The neighborhood is normally fairly quiet, with chirping birds and the occasional crunch of the dirt road when cars drive by, Brown said. But Thursday, a phone conversation was interrupted multiple times by the whirr of a helicopter overhead. He said there was also much more activity on the road.

Brown said before the suspect was caught that he was not worried about his safety because unlike many homes in the area, his house looks lived in, though he did leave lights and his television on when he went to Bozeman for dinner yesterday.

“It’s a big area, there are a lot of homes up here, but they’re spread out,” Brown said. “It would be a tough place to find anybody.”

He said there are many empty homes up there, as well as fir trees, that would make it easy for someone to be hidden for a long time.