Passenger accused of gun crime after attempted traffic stop led to shooting of Great Falls police officer

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GREAT FALLS — A woman passenger appeared in federal court today on a firearm charge after the driver allegedly shot and wounded a Great Falls Police Department officer during an attempted a traffic stop of their car on March 7, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Nikki Marie Snell, 38, of Harlem, had an initial appearance on a criminal complaint accusing her of prohibited person in possession of a firearm. If convicted of the most serious crime, Snell faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston presided. Snell was detained pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that on March 7, Great Falls Police Department officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop of a car. The driver, a man, ran from the car with a large brown purse and is suspected of subsequently shooting an officer. Investigators identified Snell as the only passenger in the car and detained her. Officers also recovered the large brown purse that had been in the man’s possession. The court documents further alleged the purse belonged to Snell and that it contained a loaded 9mm, semi-automatic pistol, along with a syringe, an empty baggie with suspected methamphetamine and a digital scale. The government alleged that Snell is prohibited from possessing a firearm, ammunition, destructive device or any other dangerous weapon because of a prior federal felony conviction.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Great Falls Police Department.

PACER case reference. 23-mj-32.

The progress of cases may be monitored through the U.S. District Court Calendar and the PACER system. To establish a PACER account, which provides electronic access to review documents filed in a case, please visit http://www.pacer.gov/register.html. To access the District Court’s calendar, please visit https://ecf.mtd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/PublicCalendar.pl.

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