Police officer arrested for domestic assault

Gallatin County, Montana, sheriff's deputies arrested an off-duty Bozeman Police Department officer on Aug. 18 for domestic assault. The arrest occurred three weeks after another Bozeman police officer fatally shot his wife and then killed himself.

Three weeks after a Bozeman, Montana, policeman fatally shot his wife and then killed himself, an officer with the same police department was put on paid administrative leave for a domestic assault incident.

On the night of Aug. 18 the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office arrested Bozeman Police Department officer Nathanael Gaukler, 34, and charged him with misdemeanor partner family member assault after his wife told deputies he had threatened her during an argument.

Gaulker, who was off-duty at the time of the Aug. 18 incident, has been with the Bozeman Police Department for about eight years and most recently has been serving as one of two school resource officers at Bozeman High School for the last two years.

Following his arrest Gaukler was held in the Gallatin County jail without bond until he could be seen by a judge.

Gaukler appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court on Monday morning where he pleaded not guilty to the charge. His bail was set at $500 and he was later released from jail after posting bail. The next hearing in the case will be a scheduling hearing, slated for Nov. 8, before Judge Bryan Adams.

Bozeman Police Chief Steve Crawford said Thursday that Gaukler will remain on leave until the investigation is resolved.

In addition to the criminal investigation into the domestic assault charge being conducted by the sheriff’s office, Crawford said the police department is also performing an internal investigation.

“As an organization that responds to domestic violence calls every day and sees first hand the impact and consequences of domestic violence on families, this is a situation that we take very seriously,” Crawford said Thursday.

According to charging documents:

At about 10:25 p.m. Aug. 18 a Gallatin County sheriff’s deputy responded to a home on Rain Shadow Drive in Belgrade, a Montana city near Bozeman, for the report of a domestic incident. A person had called law enforcement after receiving a concerning text from Gaukler’s wife, who said that she was locked in a bedroom and that Gaulker was drunk and throwing things.

At the house, the woman told deputies that she had been in an argument with Gaukler after he wanted to see some papers she had in a bag. She said that Gaukler told her, “Don’t you dare go to sleep because I’m going to do everything in my power to get into those bags.”

The woman was emotional with deputies, and reiterated that she wasn’t the one to call law enforcement. The woman told deputies she was scared to share details with them, saying she didn’t hate him and that she was worried he would lose his job.

But she also made comments about being concerned for the safety of her children and said his statements to her made her scared that he would hurt her. When a deputy told her she appeared “petrified and scared to death,” the woman nodded.

Gaukler also told investigators that the two had been in an argument earlier in the day over the bag of documents. He said he had been drinking and that the woman threatened to call law enforcement. But, he added, “Nothing crazy happened, I’m telling you that right now.”

Gaukler said the two had been fighting and arguing, but that he hadn’t threatened her. However, when later confronted with the woman’s allegation that he had told her, “Don’t you dare go to sleep,” Gaukler said, “Yeah, I did tell her that.” He was then arrested.

When speaking with investigators, charging documents say that Gaukler told investigators about an incident about a month prior when he had negligently shot a firearm in the house. Chief Crawford said he had been unaware of that incident until it was divulged in charging documents. That incident is also a part of the department’s internal investigation, Crawford said.

The arrest occurred three weeks after investigators say that off-duty Bozeman police officer Zach Heninger, 40, shot and killed his wife Danielle, 31, and then killed himself. The couple had three children and police said there were children at home at the time of the murder-suicide.

“The timing of (Gaukler’s arrest) is a tough situation,” Crawford said.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.