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Police turkey program

Billings police officer Eric Schnelbach gives a frozen turkey to Larry Riddle and his daughter Amber after pulling them over for a minor traffic violation. Billings businessman Steve Goutanis donated the turkeys to be given out at traffic stops. 

Larry Riddle got a traffic violation warning on Wednesday — and a frozen Thanksgiving turkey.

Traffic enforcement officers with the Billings Police Department spent the afternoon giving out 20 turkeys that Steve Gountanis, a local businessman, had purchased. Gountanis asked BPD to distribute the turkeys in time for Thanksgiving.

Riddle, who was driving with his daughter, Amber, said he was surprised to be pulled over, not realizing he hadn’t signaled his turn in a neighborhood near North Park.

But when Officer Eric Schnelbach explained he’d only get a warning, as well as a bird to cook for the upcoming holiday, he was pleased.

“I said, ‘Well, I want to commit some more violations because I need a turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas,’” Riddle joked.

After pulling over drivers for traffic violations, the officers handing out the turkeys checked for any outstanding warrants. They then returned with a written warning and one of the frozen Albertsons turkeys. 

Riddle and his daughter said they appreciated the gesture, and that it would make a difference for them. Riddle’s wife died of cancer a couple of years ago, and he now lives alone outside town. He’s on a limited budget, but tries to make a nice meal each year for his daughter and himself. The free turkey was a nice surprise.

Just so nice, he might have to get pulled over a second time, he thought.

“I could probably just make a U-turn,” Riddle said, eyeing Officer Schnelbach.

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.