A Fallen Hero

By Mick Holien

About the only downside of moving off the beaten track is because even of a short driving distance to Missoula you just can’t attend everything you’d like to.

That certainly was the case Monday night on a day when former Lake County Sheriff’s Capt Jay Gillhouse was sworn in as the newest member of the Missoula City Police, a diseased Missoula cop was recognized at a Missoula location where a lot of lives were affected.

Sgt. Bob Heinle was shot in 1998 in the southeast corner of the parking lot at Orange Street and Broadway where a new Stockman Bank has been constructed.

On Monday a plaque was dedicated at the massive structure to honor Heinle, who was paralyzed from his wounds and eventually died.

His assailant, who was trying to pass a forged check across the street and was captured after an exchange of gunfire in the alley next to nearby Red’s Bar, remains in the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.

Bob and I led parallel lives that week and several other shifts – he as the patrol shift supervisor and me as the Missoulian night reporter. The shooting occurred late on a Wednesday afternoon and for the third straight shift I had interviewed him about a previous incident.

As Heinle lay badly wounded from a gunshot that just missed hitting his vest and after lifesaving efforts by fellow officer Leila Haack and quick work by city firefighter and ambulance personnel, I stood a few feet away.

About 30 minutes later after an extensive downtown search when a single gunshot sent a horde of officers scrambling I was at the end of alley with Officer Jim Johnson, whose cruiser I quickly made my way under.

While that location as well as the spot where Deputy Alan Kimery was killed in 1982

Spending time with Bob and wife Lisa, then a 9-1-1 dispatcher, I was able to see how their spirit and attitude worked tirelessly to deal with his paralysis.

Lisa was traveling back from a conference and was in the Salt Lake City airport when she learned of the incident from Missoula Chief Pete Lawrenson and Sheriff Doug Chase and their wives who thankfully were with her.

While just a sergeant, Bob was on the fast track destined IMO to move to the top of the Missoula department.

You can imagine how raw feelings were that night as speculation swirled about Bob’s identity and condition.

At the time Heinle was the sixth Missoula area officer shot in the previous two-plus decades.

An up and comer yes, but a gentleman, a consummate supervisor, a fine man and a great friend, I so wish I could have been among the 100 or so who attended.

But you will find my name as an early benefactor for the Law Enforcement Memorial at Rose Park.

Bob’s widow now lives in Lakeside.

You May Also Like

More From Author