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LGBTQ Nation: Gunman who tried to rid his town of LGBTQ+ people just got sentenced to 18 years in prison


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A man who attempted a massacre of his town’s LGBTQ+ community has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

In February, John Russell Howald was convicted of federal hate crimes and firearms charges after going on a self-described “mission” to kill all of the LGBTQ+ people in his Montana town.


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The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Howell fired an “AK-style assault rifle” at the home of a lesbian in the town of Basin on March 22, 2020. The woman was not harmed even though Howald fired multiple rounds while carrying two pistols and three rifles.

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Howald then continued down the street. A nearby church service had let out around the same time, and those exiting, including the pastor, tried to talk Howald down. The pastor was unknowingly recording with a device he was using to capture his sermons. On the recording, Howald stated that he hoped he had killed the lesbian and that he planned to get rid of the rest of the town’s LGBTQ+ community. He also fired a weapon multiple times while the people tried to calm him down.

Howald also refused to drop his weapons when a sheriff arrived and ordered him to do so, fleeing the scene on foot while firing again. He was arrested the following day.

After a jury convicted Howald, he was sentenced to 18 years followed by five years of supervised release by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris.

“This defendant is being held accountable for his horrific attempted mass shooting against the LGBTQI+ community in a Montana town,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be free from hate-fueled violence. This Pride Month, we affirm our commitment to using the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act to hold perpetrators of hate-fueled violence targeting the LGBTQI+ community accountable.”

This isn’t the first time Howald has had trouble with the law. Court documents paint him as a violent, sadistic person with a “tribal band with a confederate flag” tattoo on his left arm and a swastika tattoo on his left forearm.

In 2006, he was convicted on charges of animal cruelty, according to information in the Montana Department of Corrections database, after he shot and beheaded a chocolate Lab at a public campsite.

An article from the time says he then “drove to a campsite occupied by Mike and Brenda Sullivan of Butte and threw the severed head of their dog at them, saying ‘Here is your f**king dog back.’” He had to serve 24 months in prison for animal cruelty.

In another incident, Howald threw a beer bottle at a child at a campground in Montana. The kid’s father came to confront him and then turned to walk away. Howald then allegedly shot his gun at the father without hitting him. The father said Howald was “clearly intoxicated.”

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