BILLINGS — A 38-year-old Billings man was listed in stable condition Friday after being shot by three Montana Department of Criminal Investigations agents, moments after they say the man fired at them.
The incident happened shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday in the 1800 block of Third Avenue North near downtown Billings. Three DCI narcotics agents were assisting U.S. Probation and Parole officers in making contact with a 38-year-old subject under the federal agency’s jurisdiction. During their efforts to make contact outside the second-floor apartment's front door, they were fired upon from inside the residence. Agents returned fire and incapacitated the subject.
Medical aid was provided on scene, and neither the DCI agents nor other law enforcement officers on scene were injured. The subject's name has not been released.
DCI has committed extra resources to the Billings area to help with this exact problem.
"One of our personal goals...has been to help local law enforcement with the violent crime problem in the Billings community," Montana DCI administrator Bryan Lockerby said at a press conference Friday. "We have diverted additional agents to this area and also used ARPA funding to focus specifically on violent crime. Yesterday's event was an unfortunate outcome of our efforts to be part of the violent crime solution...We remain committed to this community."
The Billings Police Department - which was not involved in Thursday's incident - will conduct an independent investigation.
"For us, this event is somewhat of a role reversal," Lockerby said. "Our division is often asked by local agencies to investigate officer-involved shootings, to serve as an independent resource to provide transparency when a conflict of interest may arise. In yesterday's incident, we were directly involved, so it's only appropriate we step aside."
"Everybody in the state agrees that it is not good to investigate one's own personal incident," added Billings Police Chief Rich St. John. "I can say DCI has been a generous partner, freeing up agents to help us when we have had incidents, and I'm very happy that's we're in a position now to help them. I'm not happy the situation took place, in that we had an individual make a bad decision and jeopardize the lives of agents and federal officers."
St. John said the investigation would likely take months due to the number of law enforcement involved.
"We want to provide a thorough, transparent process that the citizens can trust that we are doing things the right way," he said. "At the end of the day, we can let the justice system work things out on the suspect in this case."
DCI will also conduct a parallel internal investigation.