Missoula police: 'Nothing to suggest' rape suspect committed robberies

2014-02-08T06:20:00Z 2014-02-21T08:10:04Z Missoula police: 'Nothing to suggest' rape suspect committed robberiesBy KATHRYN HAAKE Missoulian The Billings Gazette
February 08, 2014 6:20 am  • 

MISSOULA — The Missoula Police Department is continuing the investigation into Thursday’s back-to-back armed robberies, but have found “nothing to suggest” that an escaped rape suspect was the man who robbed the East Broadway Taco Bell and Motel 6.

Kevin Briggs, who escaped custody in Bozeman last Sunday and was seen in Missoula at least once since, matches the description of Thursday’s 5-foot-5 white robber.

However, police said Friday that Briggs may have left the state by bus earlier this week.

Travis Welsh, public information officer for Missoula police, said the department suspects there was only one man who robbed both the Taco Bell and Motel 6 because of similarities in the robberies and the close proximity of the incidents’ time and location.

The businesses are located directly across the street from each other on East Broadway. The suspect robbed the motel at 9:20 a.m. and the fast-food restaurant about 20 minutes later, wearing different clothes.

Both times, police said, the man demanded cash and brandished a black pistol before fleeing on foot.

The robberies prompted several schools to lock their doors and shelter students. The University of Montana locked buildings’ doors — with students, faculty and staff inside — and canceled classes while a citywide manhunt ensued.

As of Friday, the suspect remained at large. Welsh said the last citizen sighting of a person matching the description of the suspect was called in at midday Thursday.

“The person has gone to ground somewhere,” he said. “He’s not out actively running around the neighborhood with a firearm.”

On Wednesday, Bozeman police reported that Briggs, a man suspected of attacking and sexually assaulting a girl, could possibly be in Missoula.

Briggs escaped custody after police left him alone in an interview room for 10 minutes during a shift change last Sunday. Briggs was in a belly belt, handcuffed, and his legs were shackled when he exited the room through the unlocked door and eventually fled from the Gallatin County Courthouse.

In 2003, Briggs was convicted of abducting and raping a girl in Helena. He escaped from the Lewis and Clark Detention Facility in 2003 and from the Powell County jail in 2004.

Welsh said Bozeman police thought he had contacts in Missoula.

Briggs is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall, 150 pounds, with a medium build, brown hair and blue eyes. He escaped from Bozeman wearing green pants, black shoes and a black or gray hooded sweatshirt.

“It appears highly probable at this point that Kevin Briggs is no longer in Missoula,” Welsh wrote in an email Friday.

“We’ve come to this belief based on our own investigative efforts, and those of other agencies. It appears that he left on February 2; possibly leaving the state by bus.”

The suspect who robbed the businesses on Thursday was also 5-foot-5, but fled the Motel 6 wearing plastic bags over his shoes, dark sunglasses and a light-colored bandanna.

He was also wearing a red Hellgate High School letterman jacket with the name “Jennifer” etched on the back.

The suspect at Taco Bell was 5 feet 5 inches tall, but was wearing blue jeans, a blue hooded sweatshirt and dark shoes.

Police scoured Missoula following several dead-end leads Thursday. As of Friday, the robbery suspect remained at large. Bozeman and Missoula police are still trying to determine the whereabouts of Briggs, who also remains at large.

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