A domestic dispute escalated into a brief, tense standoff between an armed St. Maries man and two Benewah County Deputies.

While deputies avoided violence, the suspect’s actions and later statements suggest he may have planned to harm the deputies. The suspect, James Pankey, has been charged with exhibition of a deadly weapon and carrying a weapon while intoxicated.

According to police reports, Deputy Dustin Pulley and Deputy Brandon Vannatter arrived at a St. Maries residence just after midnight June 2 in response to a domestic dispute.

They found the reporting party, St. Maries resident Tristyn Magers, walking and crying in the street outside the house. Ms. Magers told deputies that she and her fiance, Pankey had been in a domestic dispute after a night of drinking. During the altercation via text message, she told Pankey she planned to call the police.

In response, she said, he thanked her for the warning and said that he was going to load magazines to meet them. Shortly after, he used Facetime to show her an image of him loading what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle.

Forewarned of a possible violent confrontation, deputies approached the residence cautiously with weapons drawn and held low.

As they approached, the front door opened, and Pankey walked out with an assault-style rifle in hand and two additional magazines on his person. Deputies raised their weapons and ordered Pankey to drop the weapon and get on the ground.

After several repeated commands, Pankey complied and was placed in restraints for the officers’ safety. Upon being restrained, however, he refused to cooperate further.

“Pankey kept saying ‘I plead the fifth,” Deputy Pulley’s report said. “Deputy Vannatter and I dragged Pankey off the front porch of his residence and down the stairs due to Pankey refusing to walk.”

As the suspect was read his rights, Pankey gave them reason to believe that their cautious approach had narrowly avoided a possible tragedy.

“Pankey looked at me and said, ‘you should have looked in the front window when you walked up,’” Deputy Pulley said. “I took his statement as a threat, and believed Pankey had a plan to use the firearm against Deputy Vannatter and myself.”

Deputies confiscated the rifle Pankey had been holding and found it to be fully loaded, with a round in the chamber and ready to fire. Both spare magazines on Pankey’s person were also fully loaded. With permission from Ms. Magers, deputies searched the house and temporarily seized two additional firearms – both unloaded – as a precaution.

Pankey was taken to the Benewah County Jail and held in the maximum security wing. During his arraignment, Benewah County Prosecutor Brian Thie requested he be held on a $25,000 bond prior to his hearing.

Judge Douglas Payne, however, exceeded the recommendation and held Pankey on a $100,000 bond. Pankey’s attorney has since petitioned for the bond to be reduced.

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