A coroner's jury is hearing evidence as it considers whether Billings police officers were justified in shooting and killing a man after a 10-hour standoff at a sporting goods store

Share story

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A coroner’s jury is hearing evidence as it considers whether Billings police officers were justified in shooting and killing a man who sparked a 10-hour standoff by breaking into a sporting goods store and threatening officers with guns.

Officers testified Tuesday that Frank Joe Half Jr. appeared to be trying to bait officers into coming into the store and fired numerous shots during the Nov. 4 standoff, including one that hit the bulletproof window of an armored police vehicle with an officer inside.

The Billings Gazette reports the inquest continued Wednesday with the jurors being taken to the Big Bear Sports Center, which has since closed.

Officer Timothy Doll said Half had a semi-automatic pistol that he kept picking up and putting down. At one point, Half waved a white shirt, possibly indicating he wanted to surrender, but officers didn’t know enough about the setup of the store or where weapons might be located to send anyone in.

Doll told Half to put his hands up, but he would only put one hand up and keep the other out of sight. Eventually, Doll said, Half pointed a handgun at the officers in the armored vehicle, including Doll.

Doll said he called out: “Gun, gun, gun” and heard other officers fire shots. A bullet hit the passenger-side window.

Eventually, officers could see Half had a bloodstain on his white shirt.

Doll said he tried to get Half to surrender in exchange for medical treatment, food and even a cold beer, but was unsuccessful.

Officer Ben Milam testified the standoff ended when Half opened a side door and put his hands up, then retreated inside before sticking a rifle out the door. Officers fired at Half, killing him.

The inquest is expected to wrap up Wednesday.

Inquests are required under Montana law whenever law enforcement officers are involved in a fatal shooting or someone dies in law enforcement custody.

___

Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com