St. John names man killed in Sunday incident

2013-01-06T21:00:00Z 2014-08-25T06:37:19Z St. John names man killed in Sunday incidentBy ZACH BENOIT The Billings Gazette

2:05 p.m. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has identified a man who died on Sunday after a Billings police officer shot at him as he fled in a stolen police car as Daniel August Brawley, 29, of Billings.

St. John identified the woman who was arrested with Brawley as his wife, 25-year-old Heather Brawley.

Daniel and Heather Brawley were arrested on Sunday afternoon after a three-hour standoff at a home at 807 Miles Ave., on suspicion of burglary.

8:30 a.m.: The Billings Police Department will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Monday to discuss the investigation into a Sunday incident that left a man dead after he tried to flee in stolen a police car after a standoff in a Billings neighborhood.

No new information on the incident was released Monday morning. Officer Dave Punt, who Chief Rich St. John said was struck by the patrol car and fired at it as it sped off, remains on paid administrative leave.

"Any updates that are available will be provided at that conference," Lt. Kevin Iffland said in an email.

Neither the name of the 29-year-old man who died in the incident -- which started at about 9:30 a.m. after a report of an attempted burglary at 807 Miles Ave. -- nor that of his wife, a 25-year-old Billings woman who is being investigated for burglary, have been released.

INITIAL REPORT: What looked to be a peaceful conclusion to an hourslong standoff on Sunday at a Billings house erupted in violence and ended with a Billings police officer on paid administrative leave and one of the suspects dead after he stole a patrol car while in police custody.

Billings Police Department Officer Dave Punt, a 19-year veteran of the department, will be on leave pending an investigation into the incident, in which he was struck by his own patrol car and fired several shots at it as one of the suspects drove away.

Chief Rich St. John said the 29-year-old man, whose name hasn’t been released pending notification of relatives, died after the incident, which involved Punt firing at him and the patrol car crashing into at least two other vehicles in a residential neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, we did have a death,” he said. “Fortunately, our officers were all okay.”

Officers responded to a house at 807 Miles Ave. at about 9:30 a.m. on a report of a possible burglary and, after spotting two people and at least one rifle inside, called in the SWAT team and a police negotiator.

After several hours of negotiations, officers brought out a handcuffed man and woman, described by St. John as husband and wife, wearing heavy winter clothing and hunting masks.

Everything appeared to end peacefully at 1 p.m. when Punt then placed the man in the back of his running patrol car with his hands cuffed behind him while another officer placed the 25-year-old woman in another car down the street.

While in the back of the patrol car, the man managed to either free his hands from the cuffs or get them in front of his body.

“We don’t know how he did that,” St. John said. “That’s something we’re going to be very interested in.”

The man then apparently climbed over a protective cage and into the front seat of Punt’s patrol car and began to drive.

The man backed the car into a the yard of a home on the south side of Miles and struck a tree before putting it in drive, St. John said.

He then allegedly struck Punt with the car. Punt got up and chased the car while firing a number of shots at it from his department-issued handgun.

St. John said the car struck two vehicles parked along Miles as it sped westbound on Miles before stopping near the intersection with Ninth Street West.

Officers giving chase on foot arrived and saw that the man had been wounded and removed him from the car. A SWAT medic tended to the man until medical crews arrived and performed CPR before loading him into an ambulance.

Punt was briefly checked into a Billings hospital afterwards but did not suffer any serious injuries and was quickly released.

"My No. 1 concern is his well-being," St. John said. "This is a life-changing event for him and his family."

St. John said he didn't yet know if the man died at the scene or whether it was the result of being shot or from the crash. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and declared dead a short time later.

The incident began when a woman stopped by to check on the house, which was unoccupied at the time. When she went inside, she saw a man she didn’t recognize — the occupant was out of town, St. John said — and left before calling 911.

When officers arrived, they noticed a broken rear window and then saw a person try to run away before going back inside after spotting them. They entered the home and checked the main floor, not knowing a second person was inside, St. John said.

As they went downstairs, the officers spotted a rifle and ammo.

“They feared an ambush was awaiting them and backed out,” St. John said.

The department's SWAT team and a negotiator arrived and they were able to persuade the couple to surrender peacefully after several hours of negotiations.

“The front part of this incident was textbook,” St. John said.

The woman is being investigated for her role in the alleged burglary but no charges had been filed on Sunday evening.

During that time, the BPD blocked off the eastern half of Miles to Eighth Street West. While the area was closed to through traffic and many neighbors left their homes, people in the neighborhood and passers-by stopped to see what was happening.

Brian and Nancy Bersuch were sitting in their van across Eighth Street West when the incident abruptly ended.

The couple had been listening on a scanner to the standoff unfolding earlier in the morning and were on their way home from Wal-Mart when they decided to drive by the neighborhood.

As they watched Billings police officers lead the man and woman from the home, they decided it was time to leave.

"They had the woman sitting on the front bumper of one of the new patrol cars," Brian Bersuch said. "They had the guy farther up the street and they put him in the back of that car."

He said they watched a police officer get into the front seat and then get out. Bersuch turned to his wife for a moment and when he turned back, he noticed that somebody other than an officer was driving the car and yelled “They’re stealing your car!”

"The cop started yelling at the car and it went straight at the officer," Bersuch said. "It went by him and I heard about 10 or 12 rounds fire. I watched as that window just disintegrated in the back of that cop car.

"It reminded me of a movie. You see it on TV and you just never think that'll happen in person."

The BPD is conducting an internal investigation into the incident, and Punt has been placed on administrative leave.

St. John described the process as "an incredibly large crime scene" and said the investigation will look into the initial reported burglary, the deployment of SWAT and the negotiator, the theft of the patrol car, the officer being struck, the car hitting the two parked vehicles and the death of the man.

It will also involve interviewing numerous witnesses and all of the officers involved.

“We’re talking about a rapidly evolving, fluid situation,” he said.

In addition to the BPD's internal investigation, a shooting review board will examine the incident and a coroner's inquest, which is required by law anytime somebody dies in law enforcement custody, will be held at a later date.

Due to the complexity and scope of the investigation, St. John said it could take a while to wrap up.

“It will be thorough, it will be professional and it will be handled properly,” he said.

Bersuch said everything happened so fast that it's tough to recall all of the details. He said that after listening to the standoff unfold on the scanner earlier and watching its hectic conclusion, he believes the officers did the best they could with the situation.

"I wouldn't fault that officer one bit," he said. "He did the absolute right thing in this. The moment that car was pointed at him it became a weapon."

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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