TASER DEATH

Probe into stun gun incident continues

Billings man had a history of drug-related violence
2010-10-13T09:55:00Z 2010-10-14T10:52:24Z Probe into stun gun incident continuesGREG TUTTLE Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
October 13, 2010 9:55 am  • 

Five years before his death Tuesday following a violent confrontation with police, Ryan Bain’s probation officer warned that the Billings man was an untreated drug addict who posed a serious risk to the community.

“It is only a matter of time before he will seriously injure or kill someone while in a psychotic episode stemming from the abuse of drugs,” Probation Officer Candice Reinschmidt wrote in a report dated June 9, 2005.

Reinschmidt’s concerns about Bain’s future appear to have been justified.

The 31-year-old man had several violent episodes in recent years, including an incident in 2008 in which officers hit him with a stun gun six times. Bain explained to officers then that he had taken “too much” LSD and methamphetamine.

In 2005, Bain was taken to a hospital emergency room for a possible drug overdose. He arrived at the hospital naked and fought with staff and security officers.

In 2003, he rammed his car into a neighbor’s garage and fired several gunshots. No one was injured.

Bain’s death Tuesday came two days after he again fought with officers. During the incident, Bain was hit a total of four times with a stun gun, including once in the booking area of the county jail, authorities said.

Yellowstone County Coroner Bill Jones said an inquest into Bain’s death will be held, but a date for the hearing has not been set. A coroner’s inquest is required by state law whenever a person dies in police custody.

A spokeswoman for Bain’s family said Wednesday that they have no immediate comment.

Bain’s death raises several questions, including how he died and whether officers were justified in the repeated use of electric shocks in their efforts to subdue him.

Local law enforcement officers have been equipped for several years with stun guns, commonly known by the trademark brand name Taser. Bain’s death could be the first in Billings related to their use.

On Wednesday, a day after Bain’s death, authorities said they could provide few new details of the incident. Billings police announced late in the day that a press conference would be held Thursday morning.

Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Tim O’Connell denied a written request from The Billings Gazette for copies of patrol car videos, audio recordings and “use of force” reports related to the incident. Billings officers are required under department policy to submit a separate use-of-force report whenever a stun gun is used.

O’Connell said the information could not be released because the incident is being investigated by the department’s Office of Professional Standards.

None of the officers involved have been placed on leave, O’Connell said, and the internal affairs probe will determine whether department policies and procedures were followed.

“Because it’s an internal affairs investigation doesn’t mean we suspect somebody did something wrong,” he said.

A similar request by the newspaper for copies of all 911 calls related to the incident was denied by Anne Kindness, who supervises the city-county 911 center.

Yellowstone County officials did not immediately respond to a newspaper request for copies of video recordings taken of the incident by surveillance cameras at the jail.

Capt. Dennis McCave, who oversees operations at the Yellowstone County jail, said the use of stun guns at the facility is not uncommon.

McCave said jail officers used stun guns 16 times in 2009. So far this year, stun guns have been used at the jail 10 times, he said.

Before stun guns were issued, jail staff used pepper spray to subdue combative inmates, he said. But the stun guns proved more effective in the confined spaces of the jail.

Stun guns are only used as a last resort and when authorized by a jail supervisor, McCave said. A review is done whenever the measure is taken to make sure proper procedure was followed.

“After everything else fails, you’ve got to do something short of piling on (an inmate) where everybody gets hurt,” McCave said.

Bain’s death followed a bizarre string of events that began Sunday at about 11:20 p.m. when he was spotted by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The deputy, John Smith, said Bain was naked as he ran through a neighborhood on 13th Street West.

Smith stopped when Bain ran into a house. As Smith approached the house, Bain bolted toward Smith’s van and drove off. Smith chased Bain for several blocks until the van crashed near 17th Street West and Avenue E.

Smith tackled Bain as city officers arrived. During an ensuing melee, officers used a stun gun three times in an effort to subdue Bain. He was then taken to the Yellowstone County jail where, authorities said, he continued to be combative and was shocked by a stun gun a fourth time.

After being placed for a short time in a restraint chair, Bain was moved to a holding cell, where he was later found unresponsive. A sheriff’s deputy was able to revive Bain, but he died at the hospital less than 48 hours later.

Court records detail Bain’s history of violent, drug-induced outbursts. His adult criminal record also includes three misdemeanor drunken-driving convictions.

Bain’s first serious run-in with the law was in October 2003 when, according to court records, he drove his vehicle into a neighbor’s garage and fired several rounds from a .22-caliber rifle at cars and a house.

A woman on Sunnyside Lane called 911 to report that a vehicle had just smashed into her garage. The woman said she looked outside to see three women yelling that a man was “tripping out,” court records state.

The man, later identified as Bain, jumped from the car and ran inside a nearby house.

Bain emerged from the home moments later and began firing a .22-caliber rifle at vehicles and a neighbor’s house. He ran away, but was quickly caught by police.

Bain was charged with felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor criminal mischief. A year later, Bain pleaded guilty to the felony charge through plea agreement, saying he was “under significant stress and intoxicated” when he fired the rifle. The misdemeanor was dismissed.

On Jan. 24, 2005, District Judge Gregory Todd imposed a five-year suspended sentence. Prosecutors had asked the judge for a sentence of seven years to the state Department of Corrections, with two years suspended.

Bain’s probationary sentence didn’t last long.

On June 9, 2005, Reinschmidt, the probation officer, said in a probation violation report that Bain tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine four months after he was sentenced.

According to the report, Bain’s girlfriend took him to the St. Vincent Healthcare emergency room the day before for a possible drug overdose. Bain arrived at the hospital naked, fought with hospital staff and tried to grab the weapons of security officers, the report states.

Bain “had to be forcefully sedated by medical staff … (and) admitted to hospital staff that he had taken methamphetamine and acid (LSD),” the report states.

Reinschmidt also reported that Bain had failed to hold a full-time job as required until he began work as a salesman at Rimrock Auto Group on June 4. But Bain was fired on his second day after failing to show up for work and taking a vehicle he had sold, Reinschmidt said.

“Left in the community untreated, it is undeniable that (Bain) is a risk to innocent bystanders,” the probation officer wrote. “It is only a matter of time before he will seriously injure or kill someone while in a psychotic episode stemming from the abuse of drugs.”

Bain’s probation was revoked, and in August 2005 he received a new sentence of five years with the state Department of Corrections. The judge also ordered him into drug treatment.

Bain was still on probation when, less than three years later, he was arrested again.

On March 2, 2008, police were sent to a report of a burglary in progress at a house on Westchester Square. A man called police when Bain rang the door bell at about 7:15 p.m., then forced his way into the home.

The man said he struggled with the intruder as his wife gathered their children and fled the house. The man followed his family and called for help.

When officers arrived, they found Bain running from the house. Three officers ordered him to stop. When he refused, an officer shocked him with a stun gun. The jolt didn’t deter Bain, who charged the officers.

During the ensuing struggle, officers used pepper spray and shocked Bain with a stun gun five more times, court records state. He was eventually subdued and handcuffed. That’s when Bain told the officers he had “too much” LSD and methamphetamine.

Bain was charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor counts of obstructing, resisting arrest and theft. On June 5, Bain entered into a plea agreement and admitted to misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest. He was sentenced later that month to concurrent terms of six months in the county jail.

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

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