City, county investigate 2 shootings within an hour

2014-07-15T20:00:00Z 2014-07-18T14:35:07Z City, county investigate 2 shootings within an hourBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Billings Police Department and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office are investigating two shooting incidents which occurred about 30 minutes apart on opposite ends of Billings on Tuesday.

No one was injured in the incidents.

The first incident happened at about 12:45 p.m. on Rimrock Road near Rocky Mountain College and the second about 30 minutes later at Pictograph Cave State Park.

A man was taken into custody at Pictograph, after surrendering to authorities, but whether the same man was the shooter in both incidents was unclear Tuesday evening.

Near Rocky, a woman called police after a man following her fired shots into her car. Police received other calls from witnesses, said Police Sgt. Shawn Finnegan.

The 32-year-old woman, who is not from Billings, said she was traveling west on Rimrock Road from Virginia Lane. A car had turned on Rimrock Road, she said, driven by a man in his 20s who began firing a handgun at her 2011 Chevy Suburban.

The woman turned her vehicle around on Rimrock near the college and began traveling east. The man continued to follow her, police said, ramming her vehicle twice as he continued to shoot.

The woman stopped to notify police. She had two children, ages 6 and 7, in the rear seat during the incident.

Police said the woman’s vehicle had several holes in the driver’s side and damage from being struck twice. The woman and her children suffered no physical injuries, police said.

Witnesses described the man as being in his 20s and possibly driving an older-model maroon Buick passenger car.

Bob Wilmouth, president of Rocky Mountain College was in a meeting with other administrators at about 3 p.m. when another employee alerted him about the shooting suspect possibly somewhere near campus.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we have protocols,” Wilmouth said. “So we put the protocols in place.”

Students either were sent home or to their dorms. Younger students on campus for summer camp and their coaches were directed to a safe place.

Wilmouth stressed the protocol put into action is different than if an active shooter was on campus. He called the Billings Police Department and learned the suspect probably wasn’t near the campus.

About 45 minutes later, Wilmouth got the all-clear, he said.

Employees at the school recently went through active-shooter training. Wilmouth said it’s possible that implementing the evacuation wasn’t necessary.

“Did I overreact? I don’t care,” he said. “It worked well.”

Police continue to search for a suspect in the incident. 

At Pictograph Caves, employees called authorities after a man reportedly drove through the parking lot and into a natural area south of the caves.

When employees went to investigate, he fired several shots. The man was yelling incoherently and firing into the bushes with a handgun, said Yellowstone County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Michaelis.  

About 40 people took shelter in the visitor's center at the park until about five Sheriff's deputies and two Montana Highway Patrolmen arrived at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. 

Officers were able to secure the area and take cover behind a UPS vehicle in order to arrest the man, approaching him and apprehending him without incident, Michaelis said. 

Pictograph Cave was closed for the rest of the day, according to Jarret Kostrba, manager at Pictograph Cave State Park. It should reopen Wednesday at 9 a.m. The visitor center opens at 10 a.m. 

Sheriff's deputies are sharing information with the Billings Police Department on the incident. 

"We’re obviously looking at any relationship with what happened at the pictographs," said BPD Chief Rich St. John. "We would be remiss if we didn’t look at the connection."

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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