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Press Release

Passenger sentenced to six years in prison for meth trafficking and gun crimes after attempted traffic stop led to shooting of Great Falls police officer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

GREAT FALLS  — A woman passenger who admitted to methamphetamine and gun crimes after an attempted traffic stop led to the driver shooting and wounding a Great Falls police officer was sentenced today to six years in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Nikki Marie Snell, 38, of Harlem, pleaded guilty in May to possession with intent to distribute meth and to prohibited person in possession of a firearm as charged in a superseding information.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

In court documents, the government alleged that in mid- 2022, the Russell Country Drug Task Force in Great Falls learned that Snell was trafficking meth in the community and acquired meth that agents traced to Snell. Then on March 7, 2023, Great Falls police officers attempted a traffic stop of a car from Billings, but the car fled. Officers found the car and saw a man, later identified as the driver, and Snell, the passenger, walking away from it. Snell stopped and complied with the officers, while the driver ran away with Snell’s brown purse. An officer chased the driver, who shot the officer numerous times, wounding him. During the pursuit and shooting, the driver dropped the purse. Officers recovered the purse and found a 9mm semi-automatic handgun inside. The handgun was a different firearm from the one used in the shooting. Snell admitted that the recovered purse was hers and that she knew it contained the handgun. Snell had a prior federal felony conviction for assault and was prohibited from possessing firearms.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley prosecuted the case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Great Falls Police Department, with assistance from the Russell Country Drug Task Force, conducted the investigation.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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Contact

Clair J. Howard

Public Affairs Officer

406-247-4623

Clair.Howard@usdoj.gov

Updated October 19, 2023

Topic
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 23-396