Crime

Pascagoula cops returned his guns after he was released from mental hospital. Now he's in trouble.

Stephen Drew Montana
Stephen Drew Montana Harrison County Adult Detention Center

A man who spent time in a mental institution talked the Pascagoula Police Department into giving him back an AK-47 assault rifle and a Glock pistol that police had seized after he showed up months earlier with the loaded firearms in the parking lot of Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Stephen Drew Montana, 26, of Biloxi now finds himself facing two federal charges of possessing weapons after being committed to a mental institution.

His attorney, Melvin G. Cooper of Biloxi, argues that "outrageous government conduct," not Montana, caused the crime. Cooper questions whether police Capt. Shannon Broom knew — or should have known — about Montana's commitment to a mental institution when he arranged for the guns to be released.

Cooper is asking that U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden drop the charges against Montana.

Montana, then a welder at Ingalls, showed up in February 2016 at the shipyard and complained to a security officer that people were stealing on the shipyard property. Eventually, he talked to an officer from NCIS, who thought Montana seemed to be experiencing "some mental issues."

Montana's employee badge was taken away, and he was told to leave the property. But he came back, saying he was being followed and forced to take drugs.

Security took Montana to the hospital and secured his truck, finding the guns. Guns are prohibited at Ingalls, the state's largest employer and builder of Navy warships.

The police department seized the guns. A Chancery Court judge committed Montana to a state mental hospital in Purvis, where he stayed for about 10 days in March 2017. He was released without any medication.

Records filed in U.S. District Court capture the events.

They also indicate Montana returned to the Pascagoula Police Department in December 2017, saying he was not having any mental issues and doctors had cleared him. He wanted his guns back.

The police department would not discuss an ongoing court case, but court records indicate Broom believed Montana seemed OK and could have his guns back with a municipal court order. Judge Michael Fondren issued the order but signed it two days after Montana got his guns back.

Then Montana showed up at the police department again on Feb. 6, complaining that he was being followed by Ingalls security and knew who at the shipyard had committed a murder.

Broom, alarmed by the "extreme difference" in Montana's demeanor since their December encounter, contacted Ingalls security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

ATF indicated in court records that they were contacted by police in January.

At any rate, federal authorities arrested Montana on Feb. 23 on the gun charges at his grandparents' house, where he lived.

He is being held without bond in the Harrison County jail.

His trial is set for the court calendar that begins May 14.

Anita Lee can be reached at 228-896-2331or @CAnitaLee1
  Comments