The Yellowstone County Coroner's Office confirmed Wednesday that Daniel Brawley, the burglary suspect who died last week after a police officer shot him as he drove away in a police patrol car, died of a gunshot wound.
Deputy Coroner Chad Fehr said that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso but that the coroner's investigation is continuing pending toxicology results from the state crime lab.
Officers with the Billings Police Department's SWAT team took Brawley and his wife, Heather, into custody on suspicion of burglary on Jan. 6 after a nearly three-hour standoff at a home at 807 Miles Ave.
After a police negotiator persuaded the couple to give up peacefully, SWAT officers secured Brawley's hands behind his back using Flex Cuffs — heavy-duty plastic zip ties — and then Officer Dave Punt placed him in the back of his patrol car.
Chief Rich St. John said Brawley managed to free one of his hands and climb through a partition window — which had failed to lock when Punt closed it — and into the driver's seat of the running patrol car.
As Brawley drove off in the car, it struck Punt and knocked him into the street. Punt got up and fired nine shots at the car because he believed "he was in imminent danger that the suspect was going to run him over," St. John said. One of the bullets went through the passenger side of the car and struck Brawley in the right side before the car crashed into a pair of parked vehicles and stopped.
Punt was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. He may return to work as soon as next week, St. John said Tuesday.
A coroner's inquest, which is required when a person dies in law enforcement custody, will be held later to determine if Punt's actions were justified.