At around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, Missoula Police Officers responded to an incident at the Dillard’s parking lot at Southgate Mall. It was reported that a male had been verbally threatening and was brandishing a knife. When the officers arrived in the area, they found a male matching the description at the Sinclair parking lot across the street. Police Public Information Officer Travis Welsh explains.

“Officers spoke to the complainant who stated that he and his girlfriend had been in his car in the parking lot while he was making a phone call,” Welsh said. “He stated that his girlfriend was actually asleep in the passenger side. While he was sitting there on the phone, he said the suspect approached his vehicle on the passenger side and began beating on the window. He said he motioned the suspect around to his side of the vehicle. As the mail moved toward the driver’s, the complainant reported seeing that he was holding some sort of knife.”

The complainant told officers that the incident escalated when the suspect unsuccessfully tried to open the door.

“The male started beating on his window and demanded that he get out of the car, apparently to fight,” Welsh said. “The complainant refused to get out of his vehicle and told the suspect that he would not come out and fight with him. The suspect threatened the male that if he did not get out, he would flatten all of his tires. However, the suspect did not do so before leaving the area.”

Welsh said the suspect was identified as 35-year-old Justin Gerken. During the arrest, an officer collected two knives from Gerken’s pockets. The victim stated he was afraid Gerken would use the knife against him to cause bodily injury. As a result, Gerken was charged with one count of assault with a weapon.

Court documents indicate Gerken was involved in an earlier incident that same morning. At around 1:00 a.m., a mall security guard saw Gerken lying in front of AMC theaters and he told Gerken he was not allowed to sleep there.

Gerken responded by standing up and approaching the security guard. Gerken then threw a knife, still sheathed, at the security guard. The security guard kicked the knife into some bushes. Gerken then threw another sheathed knife at the security guard. The security guard kicked the second sheathed knife under a vehicle.

Gerken continued to advance toward the security guard, who in turn pushed Gerken to the ground, at which point law enforcement arrived. An MPD officer informed Gerken that he was trespassed from the property and needed to leave, which Gerken complied with.

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