Wife of man killed in stolen police car denies burglary charge

2013-01-17T13:20:00Z 2014-08-25T08:02:53Z Wife of man killed in stolen police car denies burglary chargeBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A Billings woman has denied a felony burglary charge stemming from an incident that ended with a Billings police officer fatally shooting her husband as he fled in a stolen police car in early January.

Heather Lynnae Brawley, 25, was arraigned Thursday in front of District Judge Mary Jane Knisely, where she pleaded not guilty.

Brawley has been jailed at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility since Jan. 6. Corrections officers led her — shackled and wearing jail-issued clothing — into the courtroom.

During bond hearings, Brawley's public defender Richard Phillips asked that Knisely release her without bond, arguing that she has a 1-year-old son to care for.

Knisely lowered Brawley's bond from the $10,000 set earlier in Justice Court to $5,000 after Phillips brought up her son and said she has strong ties in the area.

"She's not a flight risk at all," he said. "She's got nowhere else to go."

Brawley told the judge that her family is caring for her son and that, if released, she would find a place to live and work toward getting a job.

She was arrested on Jan. 6 after an hourslong standoff with the Billings Police Department at a home at 807 Miles Ave. Court documents say that the homeowner was out of town and that a woman checked on it, only to find a strange man, later identified as Brawley's husband, Daniel Brawley, sleeping in the living room.

Officers arrived. When they went into the house, they spotted a firearm and backed out. They called in the SWAT team and a negotiator, who persuaded the Brawleys to leave the crawlspace in which they were hiding and give up.

Charging documents say Brawley later told investigators that they had broken into the house, showered there and ate food and drank tequila. They also changed into clothing in the home with plans to wash their own, according to the affidavit.

Officers found items in the house packaged up, and the couple also loaded a shotgun they found, the court documents state.

"She allegedly admitted to all (of this) when interviewed," Deputy County Attorney Ingrid Rosenquist said Thursday.

The SWAT officers secured the Brawleys' hands behind their backs using heavy-duty plastic ties and placed them in separate police cars.

Daniel Brawley managed to free his left hand from the cuffs while in the back seat of Officer Dave Punt's running patrol car, and he crawled through a partition in a Plexiglas window and into the driver's seat.

As Brawley tried to drive away, he struck Punt with the front driver's side of the patrol car, knocking the officer into the street. Punt got up and fired nine shots at the car, with one of them going in through the passenger side and striking Brawley in the right side.

The Yellowstone County Coroner's Office said Wednesday that Daniel Brawley died from a gunshot wound to the torso.

Punt was placed on paid administrative leave, and a coroner's inquest will be scheduled to determine if the shooting was justified.

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

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