Update 10:45 p.m
The Billings man spotted with a rifle on his property across the street from Broadwater Elementary School was charged Wednesday with one federal charge of illegally possessing a gun within a school zone, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release.
"I do believe that the guy has a right to his choice if he wants to bear arms great," said Katy Hoffman, a Broadwater school parent. "But he shouldn't be posted outside of a school where he could see children."
"Everybody has a right to bear arms and protect their property, protect their family," said Bradley McGrady, a neighbor. "Second amendment but bearing arms like that is totally wrong here or anywhere."
Gabriel Cowan Metcalf, 49, make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Billings. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $100,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Police had received at least two dozen calls over the last month from people concerned that Metcalf had a rifle in front of his property at 430 Broadwater Ave., which is just across the street from the school. Concerns became elevated Tuesday, when school started for the new year, and students were removed from the front playground so they were out of sight of the gun.
"I was worried and I was also a little sad when I heard that my child had to go to an alternative playground," said Teresa Blaskovich, a Broadwater school parent. "But I was very happy with the school's support of the matter and their ability to keep them safe."
"It was just a little terrifying at first," Chandra Whiteman-Laforge, a neighbor, said when she first saw Metcalf with the gun. "But I think the second time I passed by him, I actually waved at him and he waved back at me. So I was like, oh, he's not being hostile towards me. He's just trying to look for somebody else."
Billings police said they could not make an arrest because they did not believe Metcalf was breaking any state laws by possessing the gun on his property.
Federal prosecutors argued in court documents that the sidewalks and street in front of Metcalf's residence are public property within 1,000 feet from the school, meaning the area is a "school zone" as defined by federal law. Metcalf was seen wielding the rifle on the sidewalk.
"Totally, very empathetic to this guy'" said Rebecca Noell, a Broadwater school parent. "Because I just think that we should all be more understanding of each other and really try to understand why he was feeling so unsafe in the first place."
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents arrested Metcalf near his residence on Tuesday night, pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal judge, and executed a search on the residence at 430 Broadwater Ave.
Metcalf told MTN News Tuesday that he did not intend to threaten the school or students and teachers there but aimed to protect himself.
BILLINGS - Federal agents on Tuesday arrested a Billings man who had been seen in a yard across from an elementary school displaying a rifle.
"Last night, pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal judge, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested a Billings man and executed a search warrant on the 400 block of Broadwater Avenue in Billings," the U.S. Attorney for Montana, Jesse Laslovich, said in a press release issued Wednesday morning. "I am grateful to the ATF, the Billings Police Department, and our federal prosecutors for their work on this case. The investigation is ongoing, and I will share more information at the appropriate time."
The man, who identified himself to Q2 News on Tuesday as "Gabriel," had been seen in recent weeks displaying a firearm in the front yard of a residence across the street from Broadwater Elementary School.
The activity raised concern among parents and school officials as students returned to class on Tuesday.
Billings police said they had spoken with the man numerous times and could not take legal action because no state laws were being broken. A police spokesman did say the department had reached out to federal authorities for assistance in the case.
The Yellowstone County jail inmate list shows 49-year-old Gabriel Cowan Metcalf was booked into the facility Tuesday and is on a federal hold.