$1 million bond set for man, 38, accused in Heights shootout

2014-07-07T16:00:00Z 2014-07-17T10:29:09Z $1 million bond set for man, 38, accused in Heights shootoutBy TOM LUTEY
and EDDIE GREGG tlutey@billingsgazette.com
The Billings Gazette

A judge on Monday set bond at $1 million for a man charged with two counts of attempted homicide in a Sunday gunfight with police outside a Heights restaurant.

The man charged in the shooting, 38-year-old Justin Wesley Delacruz, also faces felony counts of robbery, criminal endangerment and drug possession.

Charging documents say Delacruz, who prosecutors identify as a transient, fired a 9 mm handgun at an employee at the Sonic drive-in, 601 Main St., and then turned on Billings Police Officer Shane Weinreis, who responded after hearing gunshots at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

After being arrested, Delacruz told an officer he “smoked some PCP” and hadn’t been right since, court records state. Police also reported that Delacruz had a baggie of meth.

“He has no known ties to the City of Billings,” Senior Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ed Zink said in support of his request for the $1 million bond. “He is a multi-convicted felon out of the state of California.

“This offense was committed in broad daylight with multiple victims, and the evidence is substantial and videotaped,” Zink told Justice Court Judge David A. Carter, who agreed to the bond request and scheduled Delacruz for arraignment in District Court on Thursday.

Delacruz’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender James A. Siegman, did not contest the bond amount.

No one was hit by the gunfire, but glass shattered in the shooting injured a Sonic employee, court records say.

The incident unfolded early Sunday when Delacruz was reportedly seen outside the restaurant acting strangely.

A Sonic employee told police he was sent across the street to Albertsons, 670 Main St., to buy trash bags.

As the employee was returning to Sonic, Delacruz pulled up next to him in a brown, 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with Montana license plates and demanded money, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said in a press conference Monday morning.

The employee told police he ran back across Main Street to the restaurant when Delacruz began shooting at him.

“Delacruz fired four shots at the guy,” St. John said. “The Sonic employee was ducking and dodging, trying to make it to the door.”

A manager at Sonic saw what was happening and tried to unlock a door to let the employee back inside, the chief said. “One of the rounds hit the door, shattering it, showering her with glass,” he said.

Across Main Street and 50 yards to the south of Sonic, officer Weinreis was monitoring traffic when he heard what he thought were fireworks. But after watching a person run across the street, followed by vehicle that crossed the median, Weinreis pulled into the Sonic parking lot to investigate, police said.

Weinreis met the vehicle driven by Delacruz at a 90-degree angle. The patrol car’s camera shows a shot come through the Oldsmobile windshield toward Weinreis, police said.

Weinreis radioed for backup, shouting “shots fired,” court records state, and got out of his vehicle, used his car door as a shield and fired 11 shots with is Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun, pinning down Delacruz.

“The shots were slow and deliberate and all placed on the windshield area,” St. John said. The entire gunfight lasted one minute, 30 seconds, a long time, according to the police chief.

Delacruz threw his gun when it jammed, giving Weinreis a chance to rush in and tackle him. Officers later reported that, although jammed with a shell casing, the gun still contained live rounds.

As Weinreis was tackling Delacruz, additional officers arrived.

“Our investigation revealed that Delacruz had been partying for several days, drinking heavily, smoking PCP-laced cigarettes and he had meth in his possession,” St. John said.

Police found bullet damage to a drive-in speaker and two storage units across an alley from the restaurant, police said.

St. John said Delacruz has several criminal convictions in California, including possession of PCP for sale. Charging documents say Delacruz also at least two convictions for DUI.

The car Delacruz had been driving belonged to a local person Delacruz had been partying with, St. John said.

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

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