A man was shot and wounded by police outside the Lazy K-T motel early Wednesday for apparently pointing a shotgun at officers.
The 36-year-old man remained in critical condition Wednesday morning at St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings Police Department Chief Rich St. John said during a press conference.
No updates on the man's condition were available Wednesday night.
The two patrol officers involved in the shooting, Matthew Edwards and Jeremiah Adams, have been placed on administrative leave as the investigation continues, St. John said. Neither of the officers and no other people were injured in the incident, he said. Edwards is a five-year veteran with the department, the chief said. Adams is a four-year veteran.
The shooting occurred at 1:08 a.m. in the parking lot of the motel at 1403 First Ave. N.
The suspect did not fire at the officers, St. John said.
BPD is leading the investigation, he said, with possible oversight from the Yellowstone County Attorney's Office.
St. John declined to release the suspect's name, citing the man's condition. He did not elaborate on the man's wounds other than to say he was shot in the torso.
The officer-involved shooting followed two incidents at the motel earlier in the evening in which the man reportedly brandished a shotgun, the police chief said, including one incident in which the suspect apparently fired a single round into the roof eaves of the motel.
Officers were unable to locate the suspect after he reportedly returned to the motel in a black pickup at midnight and was seen walking around the parking lot with the shotgun, St. John said.
Police remained on the scene until the man reportedly returned to the hotel in what appeared to be the same truck at about 1 a.m.
"Officers did see a person, believed to be the driver, get out and walk across the parking lot. As officers were approaching the truck they saw that the dome light was flickering on and off and they heard a shotgun being racked," St. John said, reading from a statement. "As they got closer, they saw the passenger door was open. A male was in the passenger seat with a shotgun held vertically between his legs."
The officers moved in on the pickup to a distance of about 30 yards and ordered the man "numerous times" to drop the weapon, the chief said.
"The suspect refused to comply, he looked at the officers, raised and swung the shotgun toward them," St. John said. "At 1:08 a.m., both (Edwards and Adams) fired their patrol rifles, striking the suspect multiple times."
A nearby room
In a hotel room nearby, Rico Salazar said he was asleep when the shooting started. A Billings resident, Salazar said he had checked into the motel room earlier in the day, just a few yards away from the bullet-riddled pickup where the suspect was eventually shot by police.
“I heard the pops, grabbed my family and got them into the bathroom,” Salazar said later Wednesday morning.
He didn’t have time to feel rattled by the sudden burst of gunfire, he said. “There’s no train of thought, just reaction.”
Salazar also said he was at the motel when the suspect reportedly showed up earlier in the evening and fired a single shotgun round into the eaves where the roof meets the outside wall of the motel unit next to his.
Lazy K-T Motel
The Lazy K-T Motel is a small, single-story collection of about two dozen units arranged in a horseshoe that encloses the parking lot on three sides, accessible only by First Avenue North.
Motel manager Kerry Struckman said the business, which for 18 years was run by his father, now operates as a family trust. In all that time, the only shooting he can remember is when a guest shot a hole through a refrigerator in one of the rooms.
Referring to the suspect and the driver of the pickup, Struckman said, "I have no idea what it’s even about, why they came in, who they were looking for."
Neither of them were guests at the motel, he said. According to earlier witnesses, Struckman said the suspect had been “pounding on the door” of one of the units before firing at the eaves. The guest who was checked into the room yesterday evening was not there when the incident took place, he said.
While the shooting doesn’t exactly make for great advertising, he didn’t expect the incident would hurt business very much.
“I don’t know if it’ll slow it down any,” Struckman said. “Too many people in this town need temporary housing.”
After the officer-involved shooting, police put up crime scene tape around the entrance to the parking lot, and some guests were put out of their rooms while police investigated.
Police have not released a possible motive for the suspect's actions, and St. John said he did not know whether the man was a guest at the motel or whether he knew anyone staying there.
He also said he wasn't aware of any additional suspects, or whether there was any link to a separate reported shooting on the 300 block of South 28th Street that occurred Tuesday afternoon.
"We do not have an indication that he was looking for anybody," St. John said. "The information I have is there is no one person he was looking for, or anything of that sort."
Police are still looking for the man who was driving the pickup, and St. John said he did not know who the man's identity.
St. John said he "absolutely" stands by the actions of his officers, and he believes their response was appropriate.
"We have two separate calls where we have a shotgun being displayed and being fired in a motel area, and if you go down there you’ll see that every parking spot was filled," the chief said.
"The choice of weapons was appropriate, and once the car or truck pulled into the parking lot, it is certainly, certainly incumbent on our officers to approach and find out what's going on," he continued.
"They were faced with somebody who threatened their life with a shotgun, that we know fired earlier in the day, and they responded appropriately," he said.