Two shooting incidents Tuesday — one in which bullets came within inches of a mother and child on Rimrock Road in Billings, the other a standoff at Pictograph Cave State Park — were perpetrated by the same person, a homeless man who was high on meth, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said Wednesday in a press conference.
The suspect, 52-year-old Kelly Dee Megard, is scheduled to be charged Thursday afternoon in Yellowstone County Justice Court, St. John said.
Megard is being held without bond at the county jail on possible charges of attempted deliberate homicide, two counts of criminal endangerment and parole violation.
No one was injured in either incident, but the chief said that bullets came within inches of hitting a 32-year-old mother and one of her two children, who are 6 and 7.
It was unclear Wednesday whether Megard was involved in a third incident Tuesday morning on Zoo Drive in which a man was reportedly waving a handgun. Sheriff Mike Linder said his office, which is also investigating the shooting at Pictograph Cave State Park, is investigating that incident.
The case will be prosecuted by the County Attorney’s Office, and prosecutors will decided what charges to file against Megard, St. John said.
In the first incident, the chief said Megard fired a 9mm handgun at a Custer-area woman who was driving on Rimrock Road with her two children at about 12:45 p.m Tuesday.
“And although nobody was hurt, the bullet paths were extremely close to hitting the mother and the children — close by inches or less,” St. John said.
The woman told police she turned west off of Virginia Lane onto Rimrock Road. “After about two blocks, she saw a car ahead of her driving erratically,” St. John said.
The car ahead of her did a U-turn, stopping in the turning lane facing east. “As she neared the vehicle, she saw the driver, later identified as Megard, pointing a gun at her and she heard a shot,” the chief said.
She told investigators that she continued west, and that the shooter again did a U-turn and sped up behind her. The woman said she also sped up to try to get away.
The mother of two turned into a parking lot north of Rocky Mountain College, but found there wasn’t another way out of the lot. She reversed and was trying to escape when Megard rammed the Buick he was driving into the back of her sport utility vehicle, the chief said.
“At this point, more shots were fired,” St. John said. “The victim put her vehicle in drive, she dodged some trees, drove over some grass and ultimately onto 17th Street West.”
From there, the woman turned north and then east on Rimrock Road.
“Once on Rimrock, the victim drove as fast as she could to get away, with Megard in pursuit,” the chief said. “At one point, Megard caught up with her and struck her vehicle from the rear.”
The woman reported that Megard was able to pull next to her and fired more shots.
St. John said the woman's vehicle was hit by three bullets and rammed three times.
The woman was still driving on Rimrock Road, talking with a 911 operator when Megard turned south on Michigan Street and drove away.
Police received the call at 12:47 p.m. and responded, but were unable to locate a suspect.
About 30 minutes later on Tuesday, law enforcement responded to a shooting incident at Pictograph Cave State Park.
There, Meggard reportedly drove through the parking lot and south into a natural area in the park, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Michaelis.
When park staff went to investigate, several shots were fired. Witnesses reported that suspect was yelling incoherently and firing shots into some bushes with a handgun.
About 40 people took shelter in the visitor's center at the park until Sheriff's deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers arrived to investigate, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Megard ultimately surrendered and was taken to the county jail.
St. John said detectives interviewed Megard, who admitted shooting at a woman on Rimrock Road and to using methamphetamine.
“He stated that he thought he was being followed and that he thought people were trying to kill him,” St. John said.
According to the chief, investigators also found spent and live ammunition in the car Megard was driving. He also said that the gun used in the incident was “allegedly purchased on the street.”
“This case underscores what we’re seeing all too frequently here in Billings: Desperate people high on drugs, usually armed, making irrational and dangerous decisions,” St. John said. “And they show little regard for life, and they do this all to support their drug habit.”
The chief said that Megard is homeless and had been living out of his car.
Megard has a laundry list of convictions in Montana and Washington state, according to police, including burglary, possession of stolen property, assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon, partner or family member assault, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor assault, eluding a peace officer, misdemeanor theft, DUI and other traffic convictions. He has been convicted of some of those offenses multiple times.
"We’re extremely fortunate in this case that nobody was hurt. This could have been a tragedy," the chief said. "The police department and all law enforcement in Yellowstone County worked very hard in this area, and we’ve had great successes to this point. Obviously, more work needs to be done, and we will remain vigilant with our efforts."