There were nearly as many fatal officer-involved shootings in Yellowstone County in 2013 as the previous eight years combined. Dating back to 2005, the county saw six such incidents while there were four in a span of just seven months in 2013.
On Jan. 6, Billings Police Department Officer Dave Punt fatally shot Daniel Brawley as he tried to flee in Punt's patrol car after he was arrested in the wake of a three-hour standoff stemming from a burglary investigation.
On Feb. 11, Jason James Shaw was shot and killed by BPD Officer Grant Morrison. He shot Shaw once as Shaw reached for a gun, which investigators later found out was a replica BB gun.
On May 17, two Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office deputies fatally shot Thomas Hilger. They had responded to a bar in the Worden area and one of them, Martin Stuart, shot Hilger as he reached for a gun. They later found the body of Hilger's girlfriend, 22-year-old Erica Yurian, in a nearby vehicle. At a coroner's inquest, witness testimony and evidence presented indicated that Hilger shot and killed Yurian.
Finally, on July 5, Sheriff's Sgt. Shane Skillen shot and killed Dean Randolph Jess, a Montana State Prison escapee, near a busy West End shopping area. Officials said Jess refused to come out of the stolen vehicle he was driving and had reached for a gun.
Coroner's inquests determined the first three shootings were justified, while an inquest into Jess' death has not yet been scheduled.