Closing arguments set in Montana pipe bomb trial

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled Monday in Great Falls in the trial of a Virginia man charged with trying to kill Montana law enforcement officers by throwing pipe bombs at their vehicles during a chase.

Laurence Alan Stewart II is charged with seven counts of attempted deliberate homicide for his actions during the 45-mile chase in north-central Montana on Nov. 1, The Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/11NNeDC ) reported.

At the time, Stewart was wanted for setting off pipe bombs on Oct. 30 in Stafford County, Va., at the homes of two law enforcement officers and his ex-fiancee, who had a restraining order against him. That information was not included in the Montana trial and those charges are still pending.

Several officers testified about the chase between Stanford and Belt, two Montana towns about 40 miles apart that are southeast of Great Falls. Jurors also watched dash-camera video and a profanity-laced video Stewart mailed to his father in which he threatened to kill any police officers who tried to arrest him.

Sgt. Landon Koteskey testified Friday that he didn’t see Stewart throw a pipe bomb from his vehicle but noticed the bomb just as his vehicle was passing over it as he pursued Stewart.

“There was no way to stop,” he said. “I went over it and braced for impact.”

The explosion dinged the tailgate of his pickup truck but did not cause significant damage, Koteskey said.

Five of the seven pipe bombs exploded, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Steven Scott argued the bombs exploded far enough away from law enforcement officers and that Stewart’s intent in throwing them was more of a warning for police to leave him alone.

“There is no question that Mr. Stewart was in the car. There is no question Laurence threw the pipe bombs as police chased him,” Scott told jurors. “The reason we are in trial, and the issue you have to decide, is that his actions were attempted murder or something else.”

Cascade County Attorney John Parker argued Stewart’s intent was documented in both the act of throwing pipe bombs and in statements made in the video he sent to his father on a computer memory card.

“People will die, I guarantee it,” Stewart said in the video message.

“The bottom line is he built the bomb, lit it and threw it,” Parker said. “I think we’re more than there on all seven counts.”

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

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