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Coroner's inquest reaches verdict in the shooting death of armed man from Box Elder

Posted at 8:54 AM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 11:02:46-05

BILLINGS — Family members of a Cole Stump, who was shot and killed by police in Billings in 2020, got their day in court Monday.

A coroner’s inquest was held to determine whether police were justified in shooting and killing 29-year-old Stump in October 2020 outside a Billings apartment complex.

A jury ruled on Monday that the two police officers were justified in their actions, ruling that his death was not caused by criminal means.

“The death was justifiable homicide,” said Anaconda-Deer Lodge County coroner Jessie Billquist-Jette.

Stump, from Box Elder, was a member of the Chippewa-Cree tribe. His tribal government and his family have spent the last year calling for more scrutiny into the circumstances of death.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ed Zink called several witnesses to the stand, beginning with the woman who made the initial 911 call.

The caller told dispatchers that she was suspicious of Stump because she believed he and two women were siphoning gas from her vehicle at the Rose Park Plaza apartments.

When police did arrive, Stump was working on a car’s engine. Officers told a judge that they tried to search Stump for weapons, believing he had stolen the car.

They say Stump wrestled them to the ground and reached for a gun in his waistband. They also say they had Tased him, but it had no effect.

“The next thing she saw was that Mr. Stump was on the ground and the officers were shooting at him,” said Billings City Detective Denis Baum.

“Shortly after that, I hear Officer Nelson, I believe, say 'gun gun gun.' Soon as that happens, I’m thinking get away, so I push off and then I just hear gunfire,” said Officer Taylor Vladic, the officer that was assigned to investigate the scene.

As Stump was trying to break free, two officers fired fatal shots.

The medical examiner testified that Stump was under the influence of meth when he was killed.

Monday’s verdict means the case is now officially closed.