A 25-year-old Billings man was shot and killed early Friday morning on the North Side, and police have interviewed a "significant person of interest" but made no arrests.
Billings police were dispatched at 2 a.m. in response to a shooting in the 500 block of North 24th Street, Sgt. Harley Cagle said. Officers found the victim lying in front of an apartment complex at 2316 6th Ave. N.
Medical responders took the man to St. Vincent Healthcare, where he was pronounced dead, according to Cagle.
Billings Police Sgt. Matt Brewer said a handgun was used in the shooting.
According to Brewer, there were reports of a "rather large disturbance" at the scene prior to the report of a shooting.
Billings police were conducting interviews Friday as part of their investigation, Brewer said. By late afternoon, police had spoken to "a couple" witnesses.
Another person who may be directly related to the shooting was to be questioned Friday. Brewer was reluctant to call him a suspect at that point in the investigation.
"We're interviewing another male in connection to this that is a significant person of interest to us," Brewer said Friday afternoon.
Police detectives had placed evidence markers on the step in front of apartment unit 13A. A black Buick with a door open and parked outside that unit remained at the scene Friday. Clothing was on the ground nearby. Officers cordoned off a parking lot of the apartment complex with crime scene tape.
By the time police debriefed Friday evening, no arrests had been made, according to Brewer. He said that they will be compiling all witness statements and continuing with the investigation.
Yellowstone County Sheriff's Deputy Coroner Cliff Mahoney said the body will be transported to Missoula for an autopsy. Mahoney said he could not release the victim's identity Friday because family members had not yet been notified.
The shooting is the fourth homicide or suspicious death in Billings since Sept. 15, with three of the four happening in October.
Becky Shay, a crime analyst with the police department, said Friday's fatal shooting was the seventh homicide this year. The figure, however, also includes two suspicious deaths with the investigations still open, she said.
There were five homicides in 2014, four in 2013, three in 2012 and in 2011 and two in 2010 and in 2009, Shay said.
There is a "definite upward trend," she said.
What is notable, Shay said, is that four of the deaths have happened within the past month, with deaths on Sept. 15, Oct. 1, Oct. 10 and Friday.
"I think that's what's striking everybody, especially detectives who are trying to work all these cases at once," Shay said.
The recent deaths include the Oct. 10 shooting of Mark Kirby at 3759 Grecian Way; the Oct. 1 death of Tracy Belmarez, who was found dead on the 2300 block of Fox Drive; and the Sept. 15 strangulation death of Robert Glenn Mast in the parking lot of Wal-Mart in the Billings Heights.
Prosecutors have charged Lindsay April Haugen, 32, with deliberate homicide in Mast's death and Jose Pedro Cobos, 62, of Billings, with deliberate homicide in Kirby's death. Belmarez's death is under investigation.
Reporter Matt Hudson contributed to this story.