A grand jury on Thursday indicted a Bayfield County man on a premeditated first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of his uncle in rural Carlton County.
James Francis Montano, 33, allegedly opened fire outside his father’s residence in Progress Township last April, killing 57-year-old Andrew James Gokee and injuring 38-year-old Hudson Gauthier.
If convicted of the new charge, Montano would face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. The grand jury also indicted him on charges of intentional second-degree murder and attempted premeditated first-degree murder.
Montano made his first appearance on the new charges Thursday afternoon in State District Court in Carlton. Sixth Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers increased his bail from $500,000 to $750,000.
Gokee, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a prominent Native American leader in the region. Gauthier, of Stevens Point, Wis., is his son and Montano’s cousin.
Investigators said at the time that they did not have a clear motive for Montano’s alleged actions. Thursday’s indictment simply lists the charges and does not provide any new information.
According to the original complaint:
The Carlton County Sheriff’s Office was called to a shooting report at 4020 Kari Road, a few miles west of Sawyer. The 911 call was placed by Michael Montano, the defendant's father and the owner of the home.
Deputies said they found two men who were "clearly upset" along with a third man lying in a pool of blood on the ground.
Gauthier told deputies that he and his father were about to leave when the shooting occurred. Gokee was going to drop Gauthier off at Black Bear Casino and then continue on to a destination in Wisconsin.
As they were getting in the car, Montano appeared with the weapon. Thinking it was a prank, Gauthier told Montano that he scared them, to which the defendant replied: "This (isn't) a f---ing joke."
"At that point, victim Gauthier saw a flash and heard the repercussion from a firearm as he ducked and felt it rush past his right ear, grazing him," the complaint states.
Gauthier lost his footing and fell to the ground as he heard a second shot, which he soon realized had struck his father in the head. He said he quickly checked on his father, realizing he was in "dire condition," before running into the residence to retrieve a pistol.
As he came back outside, Gauthier reported that Montano, apparently still armed but standing a "fair distance away," began walking toward him and his father. Gauthier fired a warning shot at Montano but he continued to approach. He then fired a second shot, causing Montano to turn around and run into the woods.
Deputies established a perimeter around the residence and called in reinforcements, including the St. Louis County Tactical Response Team and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter. Montano was found about 3 ½ hours later in a field about 300 yards from the shooting scene.
Authorities said the arrest was made without incident. It was discovered at that time that Montano also had been injured, apparently struck in the upper chest by Gauthier's second shot.
Montano initially was charged with intentional second-degree murder, attempted premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree assault.
He is scheduled to be back in court on March 26.