A domestic disagreement fueled by alcohol led to the shooting of one woman, Donna Booth, and serious assault of another, Laura Morris, during what turned out to be a night of terror for the women last Thursday night, Feb 16. The alleged attacker, 59–year-old Bert Mann, made his initial appearance in court on Feb. 17. He was charged with one count of attempted manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
“It’s a classic case that shows how weapons and alcohol don’t mix,” explained Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn.
The incident occurred on Thursday night on Lane 9 just off Cannery Road in the Cowley area. According to Blackburn, Sheriff’s deputies received a call for an ambulance shortly after 10 p.m. The caller stated that someone at a residence had been shot. Sheriff’s deputies were dealing with a case on the south end of the county at the time, which would have made their response time at least 15 minutes, so Lovell Police responded.
Three people were present in the house at the time – Mann and the two female victims. According to Blackburn, alcohol was consumed by at least some of the people who were present in the house at the time of the incident. At some point in the evening, Mann allegedly told the females to get out of the house and aimed a large caliber handgun at them. He reportedly threatened the females and allegedly discharged the weapon as the women struggled to disarm him. During the course of the struggle Booth was shot in the chest at close range, sustaining life-threatening injuries, said Blackburn, who noted that the case is still under investigation.
Blackburn credits the Lovell Police Department for their rapid response and for backing up his department.
“They were the first ones through the door. They secured the scene and made the scene safe for the ambulance crew to respond, and the rapid response and professional care of the EMTs from North Big Horn Hospital may have made the difference between life and death at the scene.”
According to Blackburn, assessment of the injuries on the scene indicated that it was a very serious gunshot wound and Booth, 40, was life-flighted to Billings and then later transported to the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. Investigators reported on Wednesday that Booth is doing well and doctors are considering releasing her from the hospital this week.
Mann was placed in investigative detention and transported to the Big Horn County Detention Center immediately following the incident.
In his initial court appearance, Mann was ordered to have no contact with either of his victims. His bail was set at $500,000. He continues to be held in Big Horn County Detention Center in Basin. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday at 9:30 a.m. in Lovell.
“Any time you have weapons and drugs or alcohol you have a time bomb waiting to happen,” said Blackburn. “I’ve seen the carnage that’s left from impaired decision making. When people put themselves in situations that can cause them to make poor decisions, eventually the worst is bound to happen.”
By Patti Carpenter