Local man headed to prison for driving through grocery store

·4 min read

May 20—A Columbia Falls man is headed to the Montana State Prison after his drug-fueled drive through a grocery store last fall terrorized shoppers inside and caused tens of thousands dollars worth of damage.

Alan Roger Connor Jr., 50, pleaded guilty to felony charges of criminal endangerment and criminal mischief in February. He remains in the Flathead County Detention Center until his transfer to the facility in Deer Lodge.

Thursday afternoon, Flathead District Court Judge Robert Allison handed down two 10-year sentences on each charge. They will be served concurrently.

Attorneys involved in the case had somewhat different arguments on how Connor should be sentenced.

Flathead Deputy County Attorney Alison Howard argued for the sentence Connor received, saying "he's a poster child for a Montana State Prison sentence for a non-violent offense."

Connor's public defender, William Managhan, wanted to see his client go to a state Department of Corrections facility so he could receive better drug-addiction treatment. He sought a 10-year sentence, with five suspended, on each charge, to be served concurrently.

"While he was jailed, he began reading the Bible and leading a study group," Managhan said. "He's begged for treatment and he's trying to not let this happen again."

But Allison spoke about a burglary conviction Connor had in Yellowstone County from an incident on Dec. 3, 2019.

"Twenty-three days prior to what happened in the grocery store, Mr. Connor was sentenced for burglary, but instead of altering his behavior, he continued on his criminal ways," Allison said.

Connor received a five-year suspended sentence for the burglary in Yellowstone County on Oct. 20, 2020. The current Flathead sentences will be served consecutively with the Yellowstone judgment and Howard said the county attorney's office there has filed a petition to revoke his suspended sentence. He also owes $6,900 in restitution in the case.

She also detailed his past criminal history in Montana as well as in the state of Washington.

"He's been found guilty of burglary, theft and forgery in Montana and charged with partner or family member assault in Washington," Howard said. "And I do believe he poses a threat to society."

Managhan also spoke of Connor's past and how he had lived a crime-free life for several years.

"Roger had addiction problems more than 30 years ago when he stole checks from his parents and forged them, but he, without the true benefit of a program, cleaned himself up," Managhan said. "He got married, raised two kids and put them through college.

"But then life happened; his wife left him and he spirals back into addiction. But he's asking for help," Monaghan pointed out. "If we don't help him beat his addiction, I don't see how a state prison sentence serves society."

Howard suggested Connor could receive addiction treatment in the state prison.

Connor spoke briefly at Thursday's hearing.

"I'm deeply sorry," he said.

At his plea hearing in February, Connor admitted to using methamphetamine and to damaging the Super 1 Foods grocery store in Columbia Falls. The defendant also said he really didn't remember everything that happened the night of Nov. 12 and he understood his actions could have injured several people.

Connor will be responsible for paying restitution of $76,460 to Super 1 Foods.

According to information from Columbia Falls Police Chief Clint Peters, officers from his department and the Flathead County Sheriff's Office were called to Super 1 Foods at about 5:50 p.m. Nov. 12 when a man drove a 1995 Chevy Lumina through the front doors and throughout the business.

The driver, later identified as Connor, fled the scene in his vehicle before officers arrived, but a short time later officers found the vehicle located across the highway where it had apparently crashed into a trailer, disabling the vehicle. The driver fled the scene of the second crash on foot.

Minutes later, the department received a call about a naked man running down the hallway of a nearby retirement home that was near the abandoned Lumina. Officers found the naked man one block west of the retirement home and arrested him. He was taken to North Valley Hospital due to concerns he was outside in poor weather and he appeared to be intoxicated from illegal drugs.

According to charging documents, a woman who lived in the assisted-living home called 911 and said Connor was her boyfriend and he had come to her residence. She said he appeared to be under the influence of drugs and he told her he had just driven through a grocery store before removing his clothing and leaving.

After he was released from the hospital, a Columbia Falls Police detective spoke with him and he allegedly admitted to consuming a large amount of meth. She also said he told her he reported hallucinating and believed people were trying to kill or hurt him, which led him to drive through the grocery store so he could buy cigarettes for his girlfriend.

Scott Shindledecker may be reached at sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com or 406-758-4441.

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