Inquest into fatal shooting by officer starts Tuesday

2013-11-04T18:00:00Z 2013-11-22T15:28:05Z Inquest into fatal shooting by officer starts TuesdayBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A coroner’s jury will begin on Tuesday the process of determining if a Billings police officer was justified when he fatally shot a burglary suspect who was driving off in his patrol car in January.

The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office will hold the coroner’s inquest into the Jan. 6 shooting death of Daniel August Brawley, 29, by Officer Dave Punt. The proceeding starts at 9 a.m. at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. A coroner’s inquest is required by state law anytime law enforcement is involved in a death.

Punt shot Brawley as he drove off in Punt’s police car at the conclusion of an hourslong standoff at a house on Miles Avenue.

Officers had been called to the house after an acquaintance of the home’s resident, who was out of town, unexpectedly found Brawley and his wife, Heather, inside.

When police spotted at least one gun inside, they backed off and, fearing an ambush, called the SWAT team and a negotiator. After about three hours, a police negotiator persuaded the couple to give up.

The SWAT team handcuffed Brawley’s hands behind him using two Flex Cuffs — disposable plastic restraints similar to heavy-duty zip ties — and Punt placed him in the back of his patrol car.

Once in the car, Brawley managed to slip one of his hands free and climb into the driver’s seat of the running patrol car through a Plexiglas partition, which Police Chief Rich St. John has said was not completely locked, despite Punt’s earlier efforts to do so.

Surveillance footage from the incident shows that Brawley backed up the patrol car and then headed west on Miles, striking Punt and throwing him to the ground.

Punt got up and fired nine shots at the car as it sped off. The first shot went through the side of the car and struck Brawley, causing Brawley’s death, according to the county coroner. St. John reported in January that Punt fired the other eight shots from behind the car as it drove off and didn’t strike Brawley.

The inquest, which will be presided over by Big Horn County Coroner Terry Bullis, will hear testimony from about 15 witnesses, including Punt.

Brawley’s wife, Heather Brawley, has pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge stemming from the incident that led to the shooting. She is not expected to testify at the inquest, according to the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office.

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

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