Bell sentenced for 2020 shooting near elementary school

Hunter Dylan Bell, 28, was sentenced on June 16 to three years and four months in federal prison for a 2020 shooting in Great Falls.

Bell admitted to shooting another man in the hand with a sawed-off shotgun in mid-August 2020.

He pleaded guilty in March in federal court to possession of an unregistered firearm and was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris last week.

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His prison sentence is followed by three years of supervised release, according to U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich.

According to court documents, the shooting followed a dispute over a car and occurred a few dozen yards from a Great Falls elementary school. School was not in session at the time since the school year didn’t start until later in August that year.

Bell told law enforcement that on the day of the shooting, he had gone to retrieve a vehicle from the victim that the victim had stolen, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bell told police he had acquired the shotgun and brought it with him to the altercation but said he shot the victim in self-defense, according to the release.

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The gun was placed in a nearby trash can after the shooting and Bell fled to Lewistown, according to court documents.

Police found the shotgun and determined that at the time Bell possessed the weapon, he was prohibited from possessing firearms because he had a prior felony conviction, according to court documents.

The case was investigated by the Great Falls Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.