The 2017 murder of a Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office deputy will be revisited this week during a special two-hour episode of NBC’s Dateline. Producers of the episode say they expect to reveal new information about the perpetrators behind the killing of Deputy Mason Moore along Highway 287 near Three Forks early on the morning of May 16, 2017.
After the early morning shooting, the father and son behind it, Lloyd and Marshall Barrus, continued west. Shortly after, officers spotted the two men near Anaconda and a high-speed chase began on Interstate 90, all the way to Rock Creek, about 30 miles east of Missoula, where a shootout ensued. Officers shot and killed Marshall Barrus there and arrested his father, Lloyd Barrus, who had been driving the vehicle. Lloyd Barrus was found accountable to deliberate homicide at trial in 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison six months later.
Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison told Montana Free Press that he was clued into the story of Moore’s murder by an NBC producer, Shane Bishop, a Montana native who keeps tabs on potential stories in the Inland Northwest.
“We both found the story fascinating as well as tragic and began digging into the past for clues that might explain what happened,” Morrison wrote via email. “It’s the portrait, by turns strange and sad and sometimes bizarre, of a would-be extremist, and the innocent victims he left in his wake.”
The episode is expected to closely follow Lloyd Barrus’ journey toward anti-government extremism. In fact, the 2017 incident was not his first run-in with law enforcement. In 2000, Lloyd Barrus and another of his sons, Jeffrey Barrus, were arrested in California after a high-speed chase and 18-hour standoff with law enforcement. No one was killed during that incident in Death Valley National Park, but they reportedly shot at a California Highway Patrol helicopter during the incident, forcing it to land.
Evidence presented at the 2021 trial, plus examples found by the Southern Poverty Law Center, found that Barrus and his sons all held extreme anti-government views. In the months and years before the 2017 incident, the elder Barrus shared anti-government content on social media. In one post from October 2016, he wrote that “The FBI & ATF killed more children at Waco then [sic] killed at Sandy Hook. Where was the outrage then,” in reference to the 1993 standoff in Texas with a fringe religious group. He made similar posts about the 1992 stand-off at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Morrison said that context will hopefully help viewers have a better understanding of what led to Moore’s murder.
“We took a deep dive into Barrus’ story. His past gave us many answers and may be a surprise to viewers,” Morrison wrote. “It’s a remarkable story. I hope viewers see how it ended in the context of its beginnings.”
The episode, set to air Friday night, features interviews with Barrus’ two ex-wives who talked about how his extremist views evolved over the decades, as well as his stint as a Mormon missionary in Idaho. But the episode also features interviews with the people most impacted by the crime, including Mason’s widow Jodi and nearly all of the officers involved with the chase.
“It’s natural to look at an event like the death of Deputy Mason Moore and assume it was part of some conspiracy or plan,” Morrison wrote. “But life is generally more chaotic, and this was no exception. The deputy was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The two-hour special will debut on NBC on Friday night at 8 p.m. A preview can be found online.
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