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Bus hijacker sentenced to 10 years in custody of mental health officials

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    Butte, Montana (Montana Standard) — A judge on Wednesday sentenced a man accused of hijacking a bus and holding a man hostage in Butte to 10 years in custody of state mental health officials, who can later transfer him to any number of supervised facilities.

Prosecutors recommended the sentence for 54-year-old Dane Anthony Gibson of Spokane, Washington, who pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon in December. As part of a plea deal, the state dropped a charge of aggravated kidnapping that can carry a life prison term.

District Judge Kurt Krueger technically sentenced Gibson to 20 years in custody of state health officials, but suspended 10 of them. He likely would remain on probation for at least some time following the 10-year term.

Krueger had ordered in December 2019 that Gibson be medicated with antipsychotic drugs, forcibly if necessary, to see if he could ultimately assist in his own defense.

Gibson’s public defender, Ed Sheehy, argued Wednesday for 10 years in custody with five suspended but the judge sided with the state’s recommendations.

Gibson appeared virtually from the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs and said he was undergoing extensive mental health treatment and was sorry for what he did.

A forensic psychologist had previously testified that Gibson was in great physical shape and had not posed any threats to himself or staff at the state hospital, but continued “to harbor a number of delusions” about what happened in Butte on Jan. 30, 2019.

Gibson has said he was being chased by members of the MS-13 gang when the hijacking occurred and believes the hostage was a member of the gang. He said gang members followed him to Montana and were “spoofing” his phone — claims the psychologist deemed delusional.

According to police and prosecutors, Gibson and Dameane Baumgartner were the only two passengers on a Jefferson Lines bus going from Missoula to Billings when it pulled into Butte for a stop that day.

The driver heard Gibson say he had a gun and a bomb and wanted to go to the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse to speak to someone without ever saying who that was.

The driver went to the Civic Center on Harrison Avenue instead and when Gibson was distracted, hopped off and disabled the bus and front passenger door so it couldn’t be closed. It was about 12:15 p.m. then.

After about two hours, when police left food and a cell phone at the bus door, Baumgartner shoved Gibson and got off the bus. At 9:25 p.m., police deployed an explosive breaching device, pepper spray and tear gas, and Gibson left the bus with his gun still on board. Nobody was hurt.

Baumgartner has since died of natural causes but the bus driver appeared virtually during Wednesday’s hearing and said the event continues to affect his life. He is still driving buses.

“It makes me very nervous when someone sits behind me,” he said. “It actually scares me.”

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