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Lloyd Barrus, Antigovernment Suspect in Montana Killing, Previously Shot Down Helicopter

Before he was accused of this week’s fatal shooting of a Montana sheriff’s deputy, an antigovernment extremist was involved in an eerily similar high-speed chase and gunfight with officers in California that included downing a police helicopter.

Lloyd Barrus was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting police officers during the March 17, 2000, standoff that lasted 18 hours and included a 70-mile gunfire chase on the Nevada-California border.

Now, the 61-year-old Barrus, who has lived in Bakersfield, California, faces deliberate homicide and other charges for firing at pursuing police following the   fatal shooting of Broadwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Mason Moore, 42, on Tuesday near Three Forks, Montana.

In the past 17-years, some of it behind prison bars, Barrus’ antigovernment, anti-police views seemed to have hardened and grown more extreme, embracing assorted conspiracy theories, firearms and militia fantasies and selected passages from the Bible, his social media posts suggest.

His posts make references federal agencies involved in the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian raid in Waco, Texas, the following year. There also are suggestions, as yet not fully confirmed, that Barrus had involvement with a militia group in Alaska.

It likely will take days for a team of investigators in Montana to fully piece together the background of the antigovernment extremist and his son, Marshall Barrus, also a felon, and the roles they played in Tuesday night’s fatal shooting of Deputy Moore, three years on the job with a wife and three kids.

The deputy’s body was found on Interstate 90, in Broadwater County. His dash-cam video, reviewed by a backup deputy, quickly led to the broadcast description of the suspects’ vehicle.             

An ensuing 140-mile police chase across Montana, involving gunshots fired at pursuing police, ended when Barrus and his son, Marshall Barrus, got out of their 1998 Chevrolet Suburban — its tires flattened by a police spike strip — and both began firing at a squadron of pursuing officers. 

A 9mm handgun was shot from the elder Barrus’ hand, while his son was shot in the head by officers. Marshall Barrus died from those wounds Wednesday in a Missoula hospital, authorities disclosed Wednesday.

“I just can’t imagine how horrible that must have been,” Inyo County, California, District Attorney Tom Hardy told the Missoulian when he was briefed on the Montana gun battle between officers and the fleeing father-son fugitives.

In 2002, Hardy prosecuted the criminal case against Lloyd Barrus, an Idaho resident at the time, following the chase two years earlier on the Nevada-California border. It began near Lathrope Wells, Nevada, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas and ended at Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley National Park.

Like the Montana incident, the 2000 assault on police began during overnight hours when Nevada Highway Patrol officers attempted to pull over a BMW on U.S. 95.

The car, which wasn’t stolen, sped off as its occupants fired shots at pursuing officers. After crossing the Nevada-California border, the vehicle spun off the highway near Furnace Creek and broke down on a dry lake bed, according to one media account from that time.

The car’s three occupants, including Lloyd Barrus, fled and hid for several hours in rocky outbreaks and scrub brush in the desolate desert, while a team of 100 law officers converged on the scene, including a California Highway Patrol helicopter.

As darkness set in, the CHP helicopter crew, using night vision equipment, saw the suspects attempting to “sneak away in the dark,” Inyo County Sheriff Dan Lucus told CBS News at the time.

The fleeing suspects fired at the CHP helicopter, striking and damaging the aircraft, forcing it to make an emergency landing.  Its crew members weren’t injured.

Authorities said, according the one media report, that it marked the first time civilians had downed a police helicopter.

"We've taken bullets before in both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters," Bruce Bonnett, CHP's supervisor of aerial operations in
Dagget, California, said at the time. "But this is the first time an aircraft has been downed. It's absolutely amazing luck that nobody was shot or killed."

The armed suspects continued shooting at other police aircraft that arrived on the scene, but they weren’t struck by gunfire.

Lloyd Barrus, who was then 44, and Cheryl Maarteuse, 50, who listed Downey,

Idaho, addresses, and Barrus’ other son, Jeffrey Barrus, 20, of Emeryville, California, were arrested 18 hours after the episode began. 

Jeffrey Barrus is still serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to attempting to kill police officers. Maarteuse served a year in jail for what authorities described as “her minor role in the standoff,” the Missoula newspaper reported.

There was very little media coverage of the 2000 incident and news accounts used the spelling “Burrus.” 

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