Chief: Officer involved in fatal shooting to return to work next week

2014-06-19T17:00:00Z 2014-06-21T10:14:04Z Chief: Officer involved in fatal shooting to return to work next weekBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A Billings police officer who fatally shot a man in April is expected to return to work next week, Chief Rich St. John said Thursday.

Late on April 14, Officer Grant Morrison shot and killed 38-year-old Richard Ramirez, who was later found to have been unarmed, during a traffic stop on the South Side. The shooting remains under investigation.

Morrison also shot and killed Jason James Shaw on Feb. 11, 2013. A jury in a coroner’s inquest ruled Morrison’s actions in that incident were justified.

Following standard procedure, Morrison was put on paid administrative leave. Before he can return to work, he has to be cleared by a mental health professional, re-qualify to use his service weapon and pass a drug test, St. John said.

“It’s required that he goes to counseling from a mental health professional,” the chief said. “We need to hear from them, obviously, that he is good to go.”

“He seems to be doing OK,” St. John said of Morrison. “As indicated by him coming back.”

The department is conducting multiple investigations into the shooting, as it does with all officer-involved shootings.

The case is being investigated by detectives as a homicide. Their investigation will eventually be turned over to the Yellowstone County Attorney’s office for a coroner’s inquest.

In the coroner’s inquest, a prosecutor will present the case to a jury tasked with determining the cause of death and whether the shooting was criminal. There is no defending party in a coroner’s inquest.

While the homicide is being investigated, the case also is being reviewed administratively by the department’s office of professional standards to determine if police policies and procedures were followed in the incident.

The incident also will go before a shooting board made of up five people selected by the chief.

If an officer is found to have acted incorrectly by a shooting board, that officer could face discipline up to and including termination, St. John said. The review panel may also make recommendations for policy changes or additional training.

“You’ll see everything come to a conclusion at about the same time,” St. John said of the department’s internal investigations.

The coroner’s inquest will be scheduled by the county attorney’s office. Prosecutors could not be reached Thursday about when the hearing will be held.

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

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