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Man Dies After Gunfight with Police at Billings Gun Store

Man Dies After Gunfight with Police at Billings Gun Storeā€

Law enforcement officers in Montana have released the name of Half Jr, who died during a weekend standoff with police at a Billings sporting goods store. St. John said an autopsy was being conducted Monday morning.

John identified the dead man as Frank Joey Half Jr., 30 of Crow Agency.

CORRECTION: BPD initially said Half was recently an inmate at the Great Falls Pre-release Center, but later said he was at the Butte Pre-release Center. By the time officers had arrived at the retailer at 2:03 AM they learned Half had moved across the street to Big Bear. Half damaged numerous display cases and emptied several fire extinguishers and fired an unknown number of shots inside the building using a handgun, shotgun and rifle, St. John said.

St. John said the timing of the incident presents a challenge to the department because two officers are still on administrative leave from a shooting at the Lazy KT Motel in Downtown Billings last month.

"I expect them to be back on duty sometime this week or next week, so that should help us", said St. John.

After the final volley of gunfire, around noon on Saturday, police could see that Half wasn't moving and later confirmed he was dead.

"I really don't know what his motivation was, but he certainly caused a lot of mayhem and a lot of heartache for a lot of people", St. John said.

Half was found wearing body armor and police have "no indication" that he killed himself, St. John said. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m.

St. John said all attempts to speak with Half resulted in silence and a hang-up.

He'd previously been arrested in Yellowstone County. Half was most recently in Butte before traveling to Billings.

Half has convictions for criminal endangerment and drug possession. State records say that Half was on conditional release after being sentenced with the Montana Department of Corrections in 2016. The man apparently meant to steal firearms, the chief said. The suspect had access to unlimited resources and refused to negotiate with us. He then drove to the Big Bear Sports Center and smashed the front door causing a standoff situation that lasted over nine hours.

"This incident presented one of the most hard tactical situations imaginable, where the suspect had all the advantages - barricaded, with unlimited resources including guns, ammunition, clothing, food and shelter", he said. "We had absolutely no visual observation for the majority of this incident".

Officers used an armored vehicle to clear a view to the inside of the store at one point during the standoff, he said.

Eight officers fired shots at various times and all are on administrative leave during the investigation, St. John said.

No officers were injured in the incident.

Big Bear has been returned to management.

As of Monday morning, police can not identify a motive in the shooting.

Backup was called, along with members of the bomb squad and SWAT.

"We wanted to make him uncomfortable enough that he would come out but he did not", said St. John. Those methods included pepper spray canisters as well as a long-range acoustic device, which he said "puts out a high, screeching, warbling pitch" to create discomfort and entice the suspect to surrender.

That's when St. John said Half exchanged gunfire with officers.

"We tried everything that we could to resolve this peacefully, and unfortunately, we couldn't", he said.



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