A man died Monday after a Billings police officer shot him as he apparently reached for weapon that turned out to be a BB gun.
While police did not release the man's name — citing a pending autopsy and notification of next of kin — his father and a friend who saw the shooting told the Associated Press that the victim was Jason Shaw, 32, a Billings resident who worked as a clerk at a Lockwood convenience store.
At about 1:25 a.m. Monday, officers were looking for a person who ran from police near 23 Custer Ave., when Officer Grant Morrison and another officer noticed that a car with three people in it that hadn't been there was parked along the north side of the street, Capt. RD Harper said.
The car's driver was already out of the vehicle while Shaw and two female passengers were inside.
As Morrison approached, Shaw began to get out of the rear passenger side of the car.
"The male was not compliant and refused to follow Officer Morrison's instructions," Harper said.
Morrison used a Taser on Shaw, but for an unknown reason, it wasn't effective and Shaw continued to refuse to obey police commands.
"Officer Morrison saw that the suspect possessed a black handgun and appeared to be reaching for it," Harper said. "Officer Morrison then transitioned to his sidearm and fired one round, striking the suspect in the abdomen."
Officers performed first aid on Shaw until medical crews arrived and took him to St. Vincent Healthcare, where he was pronounced dead.
The gun turned out to be a BB gun replica of a Walther P99 handgun, said Billings Police Department Lt. Kevin Iffland.
Iffland said it looks like a real gun and did not have an orange cap at the end of its barrel, which is often used to identify it as a BB gun.
Harper said the other three people were questioned, but no arrests were made.
The victim's father, Bradley Shaw, told the AP on Monday that he had few details on what happened. He said he didn't understand why his son was shot.
"They're saying he had a BB gun in his pocket. Why are they shooting him when he didn't have it out of his pocket?" Bradley Shaw said.
The shooting happened outside the residence of Harry Calvin, who said he had been friends with Shaw since childhood.
Calvin told the Associated Press that he, his wife, Shaw and another woman were planning to go to a casino early Monday in Calvin's vehicle. Calvin ran back inside his house for a moment and returned to see police officers speaking to the others still inside the vehicle.
Against the officers' orders, Shaw got out, someone shouted "gun" and moments later Shaw was shot, Calvin said. He added that he did not see the BB gun and had not known Shaw had it.
As is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting, Morrison, a three-year veteran of the department, was placed on paid administrative leave. Counseling, debriefing sessions and other resources will be made available to him.
Morrison was not injured.
Hours after the shooting, the department's crime scene van remained parked in the middle of the street near the shooting area, which was cordoned off with crime scene tape.
A dozen evidence markers sat on the ground on the north side of the street, marking clothing and other items in the snow near the sidewalk. Investigators could be seen taking measurements and photographs nearby.
"They'll try to document the scene as well as they can and preserve evidence," Harper said of the initial investigation.
In addition to the BPD's internal investigation, a department shooting review board will examine the incident and a coroner's inquest, which is required by law when somebody dies in law enforcement custody, will be held at a later date to determine if the shooting was justified.
Monday morning's incident was the third fatal BPD officer-involved shooting in less than a year and the second in 2013.
On Jan. 6, Officer Dave Punt shot and killed Daniel Brawley, 29, after Brawley stole Punt's police car while in custody and struck the officer with it while driving away. A coroner's inquest into that incident has not yet been set.
Harper said that part of the investigation into any officer-involved shooting is to determine what, if anything, could have been done differently.
"If mistakes were made or we can do things better, we definitely try to do that," he said.