Man wanted for robbery arrested after spraying cops with bear spray

2012-08-13T09:31:00Z 2014-08-25T07:34:36Z Man wanted for robbery arrested after spraying cops with bear sprayBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A man who authorities allege was shot by a homeowner in a March robbery in the Heights was arrested Sunday morning after spraying bear spray at Billings police officers as he ran from them.

David Carlos Prien-Pinto, 34, is being held at the Yellowstone County jail on charges of robbery and aggravated burglary. He appeared Monday afternoon in Justice Court, where bond was set at $100,000.

Judge Larry Herman set a consecutive $50,000 bond on a warrant for Prien-Pinto filed in Cascade County for several felony drug charges.

Prien-Pinto was ordered to appear Aug. 21 for arraignment in District Court for the Yellowstone County robbery case.

On Monday, Billings Police Lt. Kevin Iffland said officers were searching for Prien-Pinto after a warrant for his arrest was issued for the March 19 robbery at a home in the Heights.

Officers received a tip Sunday morning that he might be at Casino Mardi Gras on Main Street. When they arrived, they spotted Prien-Pinto outside.

“They said, ‘Show me your hands,’ and the suspect lifted up his shirt, like he was grabbing for something,” Iffland said. “He pulled out a large can of bear spray and sprayed behind him in the direction of officers as he ran.”

Officers chased Prien-Pinto on foot and in patrol cars and caught up to him a short distance later. Iffland said several officers tackled him and then used a Taser because he was still resisting.

“But he was still refusing,” he said. “We ended up getting him handcuffed after a short struggle and took him to jail.”

Medical staff checked the three officers who were hit with the bear spray at the scene; none went to the hospital. Iffland said medics washed out the eyes of one officer, another had to change his uniform, and all three reported some burning in their eyes and on their skin afterward.

In the March incident, officers were called to a home on Kuhlman Drive for a reported shooting after a neighbor heard gunshots and found the home’s occupant had been beaten.

The neighbor told them that he saw two men running from the scene. Police later found Joseph Morgan Bernier, 27, hiding in the bathroom of a nearby restaurant with a safe and debit card from the home on Kuhlman, according to court documents.

At about the same time, Prien-Pinto was dropped off outside Billings Clinic with a gunshot wound to his chest.

According to prosecutors, the homeowner, identified in court records as E.L., told investigators that two men and a woman came to his residence to buy methamphetamine. The men came inside the house and then attacked him, E.L. said.

After the men took several items, including a safe and cash, E.L. said he retrieved a gun and fired at the men as they fled.

“He said he did not know how many times he fired the gun, but he was in a state of chaos and scared for his life,” prosecutors said in charging documents.

Prien-Pinto is also charged with an alternative count of felony robbery by accountability.

Bernier has admitted to robbery and drug possession charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5.

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

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