Wife of man killed in stolen police car charged with burglary

2013-01-08T18:05:00Z 2014-08-25T16:14:24Z Wife of man killed in stolen police car charged with burglaryBy GREG TUTTLE gtuttle@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Prosecutors said a Billings couple had been inside a Miles Avenue home they had broken into long enough to eat, shower and drink tequila before police arrived and the encounter turned deadly.

Further details on the death Sunday of Daniel August Brawley, who was killed while trying to flee in a stolen Billings police car, were released in court records charging his wife with felony burglary.

Heather Lynnae Brawley, 25, made her initial court appearance Tuesday by video from the county jail. Judge Larry Herman set her bond at $10,000 and ordered her to appear Jan. 17 for arraignment in District Court.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said that after police arrived at the home Sunday, the couple retreated to a crawlspace with weapons.

What happened after the couple came out of the crawlspace and surrendered several hours later remains the subject of an intensive police investigation.

Police Chief Rich St. John said Daniel Brawley freed himself from handcuffs while he was alone in the back seat of a patrol car, squeezed through a Plexiglas partition and drove away, striking an officer with the car.

The officer, Dave Punt, fired numerous times at the cruiser, smashing out the back window and most likely striking Brawley, who then crashed into two parked vehicles. Brawley died shortly after the incident.

Punt has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Billings Police Department continues to investigate.

Until Tuesday, much of the information released by police has centered on the stolen patrol car and the subsequent shooting, but court documents provided new details of what investigators say Brawley and his wife were doing in the hours before officers arrived.

The first report of trouble was made by a woman who called police after finding a man she did not know in her boyfriend's house on Miles Avenue. The woman said her boyfriend was out of town and that no one was supposed to be at the house.

The woman said she found a man asleep in a chair. The man awoke and gave her a name, but police said the name he gave was false.

The first officers to arrive went inside the house but quickly backed out and called for support when they encountered a weapon, police said.

A SWAT team and police negotiator then worked for several hours until the Brawleys surrendered. 

When officers later went inside the house, they found some of the homeowner's things "gathered up and packaged as if to remove them from the residence," court records state.

After her arrest, Heather Brawley agreed to speak with detectives and and is alleged to have admitted to breaking into the house with her husband.

She said the couple showered, ate food and drank tequila while inside the house. They also were changing into different clothing they found with the intent of washing their own clothes.

"She further admitted that she found a shotgun in the basement and loaded it with shells," the court records state.

Heather Brawley said she wanted the shotgun for protection but could not explain "why she felt she needed protection or from whom she needed protection in a house that she had broken into."

Daniel Brawley, 29, had previous felony convictions for burglary and was scheduled to return to court later this month to be sentenced on probation violations.

Twito, the county attorney, said Heather Brawley has no criminal record as an adult, but she was convicted of felony theft as a juvenile. She also had other misdemeanor convictions as a juvenile and warrants for failing to appear in court. 

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

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