BILLINGS — The man who died after being shot by a Billings police officer on Tuesday first pointed a pellet gun at several people, including the officer, before he was shot, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said at a news conference on Wednesday, February 16, 2022.
The officer, Brett Hilde, was placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure for any officer involved in a shooting, St. John said.
The incident began at around 8 p.m. when police received a report of a man walking south in the road carrying what appeared to be a handgun at the 100 block of Seventh Street West.
Hilde arrived at the scene and saw the man near the corner of St. John Avenue. Hilde saw the man, whom St. John identified only as a 40-year-old Billings resident, point the gun at a driver in a vehicle, then at a group of people outside a residence, St. John said.
Hilde got out of his car and drew his gun from about 40 feet away. St. John said the man pointed his gun at the officer, and Hilde fired eight rounds at him. St. John said he didn't know how many rounds struck the man or where, but the man died at the scene.
Hilde was wearing a body cam but did not turn it on until after the shooting, which was over in an instant, St. John said: "This was a rapidly evolving incident that took place in just seconds, and it could have been disastrous. I'm very relieved that Officer Hilde and no other citizens were injured, and my thoughts are with those that are affected."
The weapon was a replica of a Glock 17 semi-automatic handgun that fired pellets, St. John said. The chief added that the man had a lengthy criminal record and was known to police, but he did not elaborate on what kind of crimes.
The shooting will be investigated by Billings police detectives and the state's Division of Criminal Investigations. An autopsy will be conducted, and a coroner's inquest will likely be scheduled to determine whether the homicide was justified.
Hilde has worked for the department for five years and is a member of the street crimes unit. He has been placed on paid administrative leave twice for his involvement in shootings. In June 2020, he sustained a minor injury after he scuffled with a suspect while attempting to make an arrest near the Big Ditch on the north side. He fired one round that did not hit the suspect, who escaped but was later arrested.
In October 2019, Hilde and another officer fired several rounds at a man in a vehicle who was trying to run over a third officer at the downtown Holiday gas station. The suspect was hit several times but survived.
Hilde was cleared of any misconduct in both shootings.
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