Sheriff’s Office warns of Trooper Palmer donation scams

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This undated booking photo provided by the Montana Highway Patrol shows Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer. Authorities say Palmer is in critical condition after being shot while investigating an earlier shooting in Missoula. Highway Patrol officials said in a statement Friday, March 15, 2019, another trooper found the wounded 35-year-old Palmer in his patrol car outside a bar in Evaro, Mont. early Friday. (Montana Highway Patrol via AP)

Family members of Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer are facing an added burden to their grief as they watch their loved one fight to survive. One week after Palmer was critically wounded by gunfire near Missoula, scammers have begun attempting to deceive people seeking to help Palmer and his family.

Early on March 15, Palmer, 35, was shot inside his patrol vehicle near the Evaro Bar and Casino on U.S. 93 north of Missoula. The highway was shut down, multiple law enforcement agencies converged, and just after 6 a.m. a suspect, Jonathan Bertsch, 28, was taken into custody. Palmer had been shot three times in the head, face, and neck while still seat-belted into his patrol car. In critical condition, he was airlifted to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City where he remains in a medically induced coma.

A number of legitimate fundraising campaigns to benefit Palmer and his family were launched shortly after the incident. However, on Friday the Montana Highway Patrol warned people of a fraudulent GoFundMe account and a phone scam targeting people seeking to make a donation to benefit Palmer.

“This week we have had to shut down one fraudulent GoFundMe account and today we heard that Missoula County Sheriff’s Office received a report of someone calling people and pretending to collect funds in support of the Palmer family,” a statement from the Montana Highway Patrol warned. “The last thing we want is someone using Trooper Palmer or his family to make a quick buck, so with that in mind, we thought that we’d put together a list of fundraisers that have been approved by the family.”

Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino was quick to respond, as well.

“The idea that anyone is capable of this kind of deception and fraud is hard to imagine,” said Heino. “I can’t fathom it. Who would even do this kind of thing? It angers me.”

Heino said the Missoula shooting has proven especially painful for local law enforcement officers because it happened in such close proximity.

“For any supervisor, any chief, any sheriff, this is the worst, this is the nightmare we all face,” said Heino. “Every sheriff worries about that call in the middle of the night when one of his employees has been injured in the line of duty. That’s just part of what we deal with every day. But this — anybody who is willing to use support for that injured person for personal gain is simply indescribable in terms of the betrayal of the trust of the community.”

Heino said this type of fraud in Flathead County would be heavily investigated.

“In our jurisdiction, I’ll put all 58 guys on it,” said Heino.

“My standpoint is this: If, God-forbid someone killed or injured me in this fashion, my wife will already have so much to deal with. And then, to have something like this piled on top of that? No. That’s just unacceptable.”

There are several legitimate fundraisers to benefit Palmer and his family that have been approved and verified.

“The Highway Patrol has been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement seen in recent days,” Montana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler said in a statement, “It is clear the silent majority supports their law enforcement officers. Please continue to keep Trooper Palmer and the Missoula shooting victims in your thoughts and prayers.”

Approved fundraisers include:

• Kristin Kilpela GoFundMe:

• Danielle Greenland GoFundMe:

• Trooper Wade Palmer Benefit Account at First Interstate Bank: Deposits can be made at any branch or by mailing a check to 2500 N. Reserve St. Missoula, MT. 59808,

• Garden of Readn in Missoula

• Safeway Back the Blue BBQ

• Evaro Bar Spaghetti Dinner and Auction

• Crawford Distillery Benefit

• Skeleton Key Bracelets

• Blushing Pineapple Crafts Decals

• Westside Bowling Lanes 50/50

• Livingston First Responders Jars

• Ink by Zink T-Shirts

• Missoula Fresh Market Register Round Up

• CPG Stevensville/ Community Medical Center

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