A tip helped identify five teenagers now facing felony charges related to a holiday vandalism spree that caused more than 200 Billings residents thousands of dollars in damage.
The teens, ranging in age from 14 to 16, are facing felony criminal mischief charges for a spree that resulted in 210 reports of vandalism to vehicles affecting 244 people. Damages are estimated at $86,000 so far.
The teenagers will be charged in Youth Court, said County Attorney Scott Twito during a Monday afternoon press conference.
Suspects are: Tristen A. Birdchief, 14; James L. Eldridge, 14; Kade Edward Gies, 15; Lacroix Dion Plainfeather, 16, and Bryce Waddell, 16.
Birdchief is from Bozeman; the others live in Billings.
Birdchief, Eldridge and Plainfeather also are facing felony arson and arson by accountability charges.
Twito said Gies is in custody at the youth detention facility. The teenagers will be making court appearances over the next several weeks, he said.
The spree began Dec. 22 and continued through the first of January. Billings residents began reporting the incidents after Christmas. Windows were being shot out with BB guns and broken by rocks and baseball bats. Two cars were set fire, and one woman reported her car window was shot out while she was driving.
Over the course of nine days, different groups of the five boys met and spent the late evening and early morning hours damaging car and home windows.
In court records, Waddell told police "they played a game where you got to keep the gun as long as you did not miss a window."
According to court documents, Eldridge told police that they shot out between 150 and 200 vehicle windows with BB guns, damaged between 50 and 100 vehicles with a bat and broke at least three house windows.
Two vehicles burned when fireworks were tossed inside. One of the vehicles apparently belonged to an acquaintance of Eldridge, who "did not like (the victim) because of a comment (they) said about a year ago," according to court documents.
Court records state that Eldridge shot out the window of the car as Birdchief "lit a fountain firework and tossed it into (the victim's) vehicle." Birdchief then "shot a full clip of BBs" into the front residence of the house, court records stated.
Billings police assigned two detectives to the case and called upon the assistance of School Resource officers. Chief Rich St. John said police received numerous tips from the public — one tipster ended up receiving an advertised $1,000 reward.
"One in particular got us headed in the right direction," St. John said. "In conjunction with the investigation by the SROs and the detectives, that is how we were able to identify these people."