“We sent my brother off in a good way,” Terrance LaFromboise said after the funeral for his 21-year-old brother Brendon Galbreath. The young man died on Aug. 12 following a police chase in Missoula that resulted in gunfire. Details of the incident remain unclear, especially to members of Galbreath’s family.
“In Missoula we had a rally today [Friday, Aug. 20] for organizations and families to come together,” LaFromboise said. “We realize that something is missing, and that is the truth.”
Last week, the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation said Galbreath died by suicide, but LaFromboise finds that hard to believe.
“When the first report said he’d died by suicide, I knew he had trouble because there were times I thought about that,” LaFromboise said. “I’m studying suicide and people sometimes do, but we talked two days prior to the event and he talked about going to parties. Two weeks ago at Brendon’s house a friend had a pellet gun and Brendon said ‘I don’t like guns.’ He didn’t shoot guns. He had problems, but he never tried hurting himself. Brendon had quit his job and was applying to SKC [Salish Kootenai College].”
Police asked Galbreath’s mother to meet with them at 3 p.m. last Wednesday in Missoula.
“The Missoula Police Department reached out to my mother and my brother’s father and made the effort to tell them we cannot show you the whole video, but what we can show you is a picture of him,” LaFromboise said. “That was all.”
Missoula Mayor John Engen has defended the MPD’s decision not to release dash or body cam footage of the incident, instead offering a single still picture. He said releasing the videos “if distributed widely, can alter eyewitness recollections that may not comport with video, which is not always conclusive.” He also acknowledged other jurisdictions routinely release such footage, but insisted Missoula’s approach is proper.
“Chief White and I have heard pleas from the community for justice and transparency, and we believe this investigation will result in both,” Engen wrote.
“They probably thought Brendon was a typical Indian boy with a family that didn’t care,” LaFromboise said. “But they were wrong. I want to have faith in the DCI, but my brother was a fair and honest person, and if things are amiss we would want the MPD to do the same. It concerns me because it makes us look like bad people because we’re asking questions.”
In addition to the direct action last week, LaFromboise started a GoFundMe page to raise money for an independent autopsy to be performed. Having raised much more than the $3,000 necessary for the operation, LaFromboise said they are in the process of arranging for a second opinion.
LaFromboise also reports having secured legal services from an attorney and said the Montana Racial Equity Project reached out to him immediately. While they warned him against using social media, his lawyer advised him to exert public pressure to keep the issue alive.
“We’re meeting with various entities,” he said, “but some are too aggressive for their own good. We’re just asking to be clearly communicated to. We want the full video.”
In Missoula, about 75 people joined Terrance in prayer, then walked to the Missoula County Courthouse. It began to rain as they sang and drummed, but cleared up before they were through.
“We’ve got to be humans,” LaFromboise said. “We have to come to the truth, creating space for love and empathy so we don’t have to hold onto hate.”