Former 'Amigos' gang member sentenced for 2016 shooting

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A 28-year-old man formerly with the Amigos motorcycle gang was sentenced on Monday to three years with the Montana Department of Corrections for his role in the gang opening fire on a jeep parked in front of a full apartment building in 2016. 

After several people testified in support of Tyler Matthew Christiansen, who said he cut ties with the group, his attorney had asked for a deferred sentence. However, Judge Elizabeth Best said in light of recent shootings in Great Falls, she had to address the seriousness of the crime. 

"We just had another shooting over the weekend," Best said after handing down the sentence. "We have people in this community with guns shooting at buildings and cars and people, and I won't allow that to happen. Someone's going to get killed."

According to court documents, residents living in the apartment building on the 4200 block of Central Avenue at the time of the shooting said it sounded like firecrackers going off outside. Investigators determined Christiansen joined three others in the shooting that left 23 bullet holes in a Jeep parked in front of the four-plex.

According to court documents, video surveillance footage from one of the co-defendants' home showed Christiansen, John McKinnis, Anthony Lee Maier Jr.  and another man leaving in a vehicle and returning to the home with firearms in hand.

After they return, they appear to clean any shell casings from the vehicle's interior and open the hood to allow the engine to cool down, in case law enforcement officials came around to investigate, prosecutors presumed in court documents. 

Christiansen was originally charged with eight counts of criminal endangerment, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of criminal mischief, all felonies. But in December he signed a deal with prosecutors agreeing to plead guilty to one count of criminal endangerment and tampering with evidence. In exchange, prosecutors offered to recommend he be sentenced to 10 years with the Department of Corrections with five suspended. 

"We cannot condone vigilante justice, which is what this amounts to," Deputy County Attorney Kory Larsen said at Monday's hearing. 

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Christiansen apologized during the hearing, and said he had no interest in returning to any association with the motorcycle gang. He said at the time he was dealing with the death of two friends and has since sought counseling that revealed a PTSD diagnosis. His counselor and girlfriend testified on his progress and his firm employment status. 

Best noted Christiansen's proactive nature since the incident but said the seriousness of the shooting should not be understated.

"People were in houses that could very well be dead," she said. 

In addition to the three-year commitment, Christiansen will also be on probation for seven years. 

Because he was sentenced with the Department of Corrections, how Christiansen will spend the three years of his sentence will be at the discretion of the department's panel; he could spend that time in state prison, in an in-house treatment program or even an intensive probation stint outside of incarceration. 

For their roles in the incident, McKinnis was sentenced to 10 years, five suspended, with the Department of Corrections; Maier was also sentenced to 10 years, five suspended with the Department of Corrections. Both pleaded guilty to criminal endangerment and tampering in similar plea agreements Christiansen signed with prosecutors. Jordan Thompson, another man named in court documents as involved with the incident, was given a three-year deferred sentence for a tampering with evidence charge.

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Seaborn Larson
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