Officials: Drugs, speed factors in crash that killed man, hurt deputy

By: 
Marlo Pronovost —
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
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Park County’s current Sheriff Brad Bichler pins an award on Deputy Brian Elliott-Pearson in this photo from April 20, 2015.

Enterprise file photo

COLUMBUS — Drugs and speed were factors in the head-on crash that killed a multi-state convicted felon living in Columbus and seriously injured Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Elliott-Pearson last month, according to law enforcement officials.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David Morris told Yellowstone Newspapers Tuesday afternoon that toxicology results revealed that Schawn Michael Schmitz, 53, had drugs in his system at the time of the fatal crash that occurred March 5 just outside of Livingston.

The trooper said he could not elaborate further on what type of drugs were involved, but said the investigation was basically complete.

Schmitz’s probation officer had ordered a drug test the week of the fatal crash, according to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office records.

Morris told Yellowstone Newspapers he came upon the accident a short time after it had occurred. Schmitz was pronounced dead at the scene.

Elliott-Pearson, 61, was airlifted to Billings and has undergone at least six surgeries on his legs. He will be confined to a long-term recovery center for a handful of months and will have to learn how to walk again, according to a GoFund Me Recovery Fund update.

Elliott-Pearson was awarded a Meritorious Service medal for saving a life in 2015.

Schmitz was on probation from a 2015 felony criminal endangerment case in Stillwater County that involved him grabbing his wife by the throat, throwing her to the ground, sitting on her chest and using both hands to strangle her following an argument, according to court documents and statements made at court hearings.

Schmitz was initially charged with aggravated assault, but that was amended to criminal endangerment.

He was four years into a 10-year probation period at the time of his death.