John Russell Howald, 44, from Basin, Mont., was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for shooting into a home in what prosecutors described as an attempt to rid the small town of LGBTQ+ residents, News From The States reports. Howald was convicted by a federal jury in February of a hate crime involving an attempt to kill and discharge of a firearm. He used an AK-style rifle at the residence of a lesbian, who was home at the time. He then walked into town intending to target others he perceived to be lesbian, queer and gay. “This defendant is being held accountable for his horrific attempted mass shooting against the LGBTQI+ community in a Montana town,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that on March 22, 2020, Howald went on a self-described mission to eliminate Basin's lesbian, queer and gay community. Howald was armed with two assault rifles, a hunting rifle, two pistols and multiple high-capacity magazines that were taped together to speed reloading. He walked to the first victim’s residence and fired multiple rounds from an AK-style rifle into her home. Hoping he had killed her, Howald set off toward other houses occupied by people who identify as lesbian, queer or gay. When a deputy arrived, Howald pointed the AK-style rifle at the officer, nearly starting a shootout, and then fled into the hills, firing at least one round as he went. Law enforcement arrested Howald the next day and found him armed with a loaded pistol and a knife.