Murder charges filed in Carlton County shooting

CARLTON -- A Bayfield man was charged Tuesday with murder and assault, even as authorities said it remained unclear why he allegedly opened fire on his uncle and cousin late Friday in rural Carlton County.

James Montano

CARLTON - A Bayfield man was charged Tuesday with murder and assault, even as authorities said it remained unclear why he allegedly opened fire on his uncle and cousin late Friday in rural Carlton County.

James Francis Montano, 32, was arraigned in State District Court on charges of intentional second-degree murder, attempted premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree assault in the incident that killed 57-year-old Andrew James Gokee of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

Montano allegedly shot Gokee and Hudson Gauthier of Stevens Point, Wis., outside his father’s residence at 4020 Kari Road in Progress Township, between Sawyer and Cromwell, around 11:30 p.m. Friday.

A criminal complaint states that Gauthier told investigators that he and his father, Gokee, were about to leave the residence when Montano “suddenly appeared unexpectedly near the front of the vehicle wearing a hoodie and holding some sort of firearm.”

Gauthier said he initially thought it was a prank, until Montano yelled that he was going to kill them and fired off two rounds, according to the complaint. Gokee was struck in the head; Gauthier was grazed by a bullet but suffered only superficial injuries.


Sheriff Kelly Lake said her office is continuing to look into the circumstances, but investigators have not been able to establish whether there was any dispute that could have led to the shooting.

“The investigation is still ongoing, it’s still an active investigation, but at this point we don’t have a clear motive,” Lake said at an afternoon news conference.

Gokee, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a well-known Native American leader in Wisconsin, was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center at about 6 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said Montano was shot in the upper chest by Gauthier, who retrieved a pistol in response to the shooting. The defendant was treated at a Duluth hospital but has since been transferred to the Carlton County Jail.

Shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Montano did not display any apparent physical struggles as deputies escorted him to and from a courtroom Tuesday.

At the brief hearing, 6th Judicial District Judge Robert Macaulay granted County Attorney Thom Pertler’s request to set bail at $500,000.

Joanna Wiegert, the attorney representing Montano for his arraignment, said the defendant had no ability to pay that amount and asked the judge to set bail at $200,000.

“Based on everything that I’ve seen, the strength of this case is very strong,” Pertler told the judge, adding: “As we go down the course of discovery and receive additional reports, I anticipate we’ll have an even stronger case.”


The Carlton County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the report of a shooting at the residence at 11:36 p.m. Friday. The 911 call was placed by Michael Montano, the defendant’s father and the owner of the home.

Deputies said they found two men who were “clearly upset” along with a third man lying in a pool of blood on the ground.

Gauthier, 38, told deputies that he and his father were about to leave when the shooting occurred. According to the complaint, Gokee was going to drop Gauthier off at Black Bear Casino and then continue on to a destination in Wisconsin.

As they were getting in the car, Montano appeared with the weapon, the complaint states. Thinking it was a prank, Gauthier told Montano that he scared them, to which the defendant allegedly replied: “This (isn’t) a f---ing joke.”

“At that point, victim Gauthier saw a flash and heard the repercussion from a firearm as he ducked and felt it rush past his right ear, grazing him,” the complaint states.

Gauthier lost his footing and fell to the ground as he heard a second shot, which he soon realized had struck his father in the head, according to the complaint. He said he quickly checked on his father, realizing he was in “dire condition,” before running into the residence to retrieve a pistol.

As he came back outside, Gauthier reported that Montano, apparently still armed but standing a “fair distance away,” began walking toward him and his father. Gauthier fired a warning shot at Montano but he continued to approach, the complaint states. He then fired a second shot, causing Montano to turn around and run into the woods.

Deputies established a perimeter around the residence and called in reinforcements, including the St. Louis County Tactical Response Team and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter. Montano was found about 3½ hours later in a field about 300 yards from the shooting scene, according to the complaint.


Authorities said the arrest was made without incident. It was discovered at that time that Montano also had been injured, apparently struck in the upper chest by Gauthier’s second shot.

Montano has numerous criminal convictions in Wisconsin, including battery, theft, obstructing an officer, disorderly conduct and drug and alcohol offenses. He is scheduled to be back in court on May 7.

Gokee worked at the Native American Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 1995 until his retirement in 2017, the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reported. Starting as an outreach specialist, he became the center’s director in 2010, and he was featured in a 2016 Wisconsin Public Television documentary on the history of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Gokee also was the grandfather of 14-year-old Jason Pero, who was fatally shot by an Ashland County sheriff’s deputy in November. Holly Gauthier, who is Gokee's daughter and Pero's mother, told WDIO-TV that Gokee was well-known in the community and that the death is a big loss for the family.

A GoFundMe page established by Gokee’s family is soliciting donations to cover his funeral expenses. Traditional Native American services will be held Thursday in Red Cliff.

“On the morning of April 22, 2018, Andrew (Andy) Bizhikii Gokee began his journey to the spirit world and everlasting happiness,” the page states. “He took his last breath in this realm with many of his family members by his side.”

The fundraiser can be accessed at .


Andrew Gokee (courtesy WDIO-TV)

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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