An arrest warrant for aggravated animal cruelty ended in suicide this afternoon at the 38th Street residence where a kitten was found brutally abused on Sunday night. Police have not released the name of the victim, but Sgt. Travis Welsh said at the scene that officers were in touch with the man by phone before the incident.
"At this time, it appears that he took his own life," Welsch said.
According to Welsch, an officer entered the apartment at 2419 38th St. after 1 p.m. to serve the warrant when he heard a gunshot. The officer exited the building, and several squad cars and a SWAT vehicle soon arrived as backup. Police blockaded the area and redirected traffic into the nearby K-Mart parking lot.
Local residents were evacuated or told to stay in their homes.
"About a quarter to two, cops started showing up," said Bryann Stillwagon. "I went out to walk the dog, so I could see what was going on. Then they started evacuating the houses behind us."
Stillwagon said officers told her to stay in her house. She then went to the roof with a blanket to watch the scene unfold. About an hour later, she was told she could leave.
"They said it's over now," Stillwagon said. "He chose to take his life."
By 3 p.m., scores of onlookers had gathered in the parking lot, sitting in cars or standing in groups. Several said they'd heard about the incident on the radio and came to investigate, recognizing the address as that of Gary Bassett, the man who was allegedly behind the Sunday night beating of a kitten, Mercy, who was subsequently euthanized earlier this week.
"Clearly he had serious mental issues," Pari Lecoure said while waiting for police to lift the blockade.
Welsch would not confirm if Bassett was the target of the warrant or if he was the victim in the suicide. Missoula County has taken charge of the investigation.