BILLINGS – Billings police officers testified Wednesday as part of the ongoing coroner’s inquest, looking into the deadly standoff at Big Bear Sports Center in November.
Officers testified that the death of Frank Half Jr. was preventable, but due to his hostility and noncompliance, they felt they had no other option but to shoot him.
Half died on Nov 4 after a nearly 10-hour standoff with police.
During testimony, officers described how their concerns continued to grow as the hours went on, and how they felt that Half was baiting them, and preparing for some sort of ambush.
Sgt. Brandon Wooley described the moment when Half opened an emergency exit door on the front corner of the building and put his hands out where officers could see them. He said the officers believed Half may be surrendering, and prepared to make an arrest. Moments later, his hands were replaced by the barrel of a gun.
Wooley fired four shots towards the door in hopes of pushing Half back inside the building.
It was after that act, that Wooley spoke with Chief Rich St. John about sending officers inside, something they viewed as a "last resort" due to the danger to officers.
Before officers were ever sent inside, officers testified that Half was observed in a body armor, with a rifle, heading towards the front of the building. Two tents were positioned at the entrance of the store after it had been destroyed, and officers testify they observed Half moving behind them.
Officer Darn Haider told the jury on Wednesday, he saw a flash from inside the tent, which he believed was Half firing out towards officers. That is when he fired his weapon.
There were two volleys of fire, separated by few minutes, that eventually killed Half.
Officers said they believe that if Half had complied, there would have been a different outcome.
In Montana, coroner’s inquests are required when law enforcement is involved in a fatal shooting.