For the last five years, Carrie Jamrogowicz has been among the United States Practical Shooting Association's most competitive female shooters. She competes mostly in the Production Division, where participants use production-model handguns, or "duty guns," to hit targets in timed scenarios. On her YouTube channel, one video shows Jamrogowicz grab her pistol from a hip holster as she begins negotiating a course of makeshift walls. (Her channel has 102 uploaded videos and all of them, save for a handful with cats chasing toy mice, are of Jamrogowicz juking between obstacles, gun in hand.) In the video, she cracks off shots from behind corners and through windows at targets cut vaguely to depict the silhouette of human torsos. Her Facebook page lists the fruit of her hard work: Five USPSA Area 1 Production Division "High Lady" awards and three top-five finishes at the national championships.
What makes Jamrogowicz's prowess as a competitive shooter all the more impressive is that she is relatively new to the sport. Originally from the Northeast, Jamrogowicz didn't grow up around guns, and it wasn't until she moved to Montana in 2004 that she took up shooting. In a 2010 article in The Washington Post titled in part "Gun-toting soccer moms a scary thought in D.C. area, but not out west," Fredrick Kunkle writes about a Big Sky Practical Shooting Club match in Missoula. Kunkle reports that "[Jamrogowicz] never saw a real gun until she moved to Montana, and then she saw them everywhere and decided she needed one for self-defense."
What could not have been known at the time the article was published is that Jamrogowicz's move to Montana and her subsequent interest in firearms would be used to charge her with criminal stalking.
According to court documents, Jamrogowicz met Missoula Police Detective Stacy Lear in North Carolina in 1998. They were more acquaintances than friends. Lear claims never to have spent one-on-one time with Jamrogowicz and most of their interaction happened over the Internet on the social networking site LiveJournal and the bookmarking web service Delicious.com.
Lear, who, like Jamrogowicz, declined to comment for this story on the advice of her attorney, says in court documents that between 1999 and 2001, she witnessed Jamrogowicz stalk a woman by copying the woman's lifestyle. Lear says Jamrogowicz changed her hair color and wardrobe, bought the same breed of dog and joined the same organizations as the woman. In 2002, Lear alleges Jamrogowicz began doing the same to her, adding that Jamrogowicz enrolled in the same university she attended, signed up for the same classes, bought the same style truck and gained access to her electronic communications.
In April 2004, Lear moved to Missoula. By September of that year, court documents say Jamrogowicz had also headed west and joined the same shooting organization as Lear. In time, she began competing in the same USPSA sanctioned events. When, in 2005, Lear was hired by the Missoula Police Department, Jamrogowicz posted the news online before Lear had told anyone. She also received a concealed weapons permit, and when Lear began therapy for an injury, Jamrogowicz made an appointment with the same physical therapist. The physical therapist would later testify Jamrogowicz showed no sign of injury.
On Feb. 3, 2012, Lear obtained a temporary order of protection against Jamrogowicz, which kept her from coming within 1,000 feet of Lear or possessing firearms in Montana. Then, on July 5, the Missoula County Prosecutors office charged Jamrogowicz with criminal stalking. Jamrogowicz denied the charges. Her attorney, Quentin Rhoades, says that his client never threatened Lear, and therefore never stalked her.
"Ms. Lear's allegations—none of which involve any suggestion of violence—consist of hearsay, innuendo and unfounded conclusions drawn from otherwise unconnected facts..." he wrote in a brief.
On July 9, Rhoades moved to dismiss the civil suit with prejudice because Lear had refused to attend discovery hearings. Lear moved to dismiss the civil suit without prejudice (permitting her to renew the action if the criminal case failed). Missoula Justice Court sided with Lear, but Jamrogowicz appealed. The case eventually made its way to Helena, where the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision.
Today, Jamrogowicz still faces criminal charges and, according to Missoula County Attorney Jennifer Clark, no trial date has been set. Lear has also reopened the civil suit, again seeking a permanent order of protection and taking away Jamrogowicz's right to possess firearms.
This summer, Jamrogowicz requested that District Court Judge Ed McLean grant her leniency. "The sport of practical shooting requires a competitor to practice firing regularly, or risk losing the skill all together," she wrote. The judge denied her.
Court orders aside, other obstacles exist between Jamrogowicz and and her future in competitive shooting. According to USPSA Area 1 Director Chuck Anderson, membership in the association may be revoked not only because of a member's "legal issues but also if someone's personality poses a threat to people on the range." He says he has been "dealing with" the case for more than a year and has fielded phone calls from attorneys. He says the USPSA is waiting to see how the legal issues are resolved between Jamrogowicz and Lear before a decision is made about their memberships. Like everyone else involved, he is unwilling to speak in details until the matter is untangled. "We'll see what happens. This has been going on for a while," Anderson says. "This one ... this one's a weird one."