BILLINGS - Bond was set at $250,000 Tuesday for a woman charged after a Billings police officer was shot during a weekend standoff.
Mary Ann Whitecrane, 57, appeared in Yellowstone County District Court for arraignment by video from the county jail on felony charges of attempted deliberate homicide and criminal mischief. District Judge Michael Moses entered not guilty pleas on her behalf after he rejected a prosecutor's request for a higher bond amount of $1 million.
Whitecrane was seated in a wheelchair during the court appearance and complained she did not have her glasses and therefore could not read the charging documents. A public defender read the documents to her in private then returned to court and told the judge Whitecrane had no request as to a proper bond amount because she has nowhere to live after her home was destroyed by police during the standoff.
In asking for the higher bond, the prosecutor described Whitecrane as an "extreme threat to the community" and noted the officer who was shot, previously identified as Mike Yarina, remained hospitalized "in critical care."
The prosecutor also said Whitecrane has a previous felony conviction in 1989, but did not elaborate on the nature of the crime. Records from Oklahoma indicate Whitecrane was convicted of forgery.
Whitecrane was arrested Saturday at about 10 p.m. following a 14-hour standoff that began when officers arrived at a residence on Birch Lane earlier that morning to investigate a weapons complaint. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John described in detail during a press conference on Monday the events during the drawn-out standoff that included the gunfire that sent Yarina to the hospital.
Charging documents filed in the case shed further light on details of events prior to the standoff. Court documents state officers were first dispatched to the neighborhood Saturday shortly after 1 a.m. on reports that Whitecrane was banging on the side of a neighbor's home. Officers were also told Whitecrane had firearms in her residence.
An officer arrived and met with neighbors. Court records state that as soon as the officer entered the neighbor's residence "a window in the home was shattered." The officer believed that Whitecrane had shot at the residence and called for additional officers, court records state.
The officer left the residence, noticed another window was broken, and determined the shots were not coming from an "actual firearm." When additional officers arrived, they "made several announcements and commands for (Whitecrane) to exit her home" but received no response.
A neighbor told officers he had an "ongoing issue" with Whitecrane, who he said believed he was hacking into her computer and surveillance system. He said Whitecrane had followed him when he left for work and confronted him earlier in the day. The man said that just prior to calling the police he had seen Whitecrane banging on the outside of his home with a piece of wood, and when he told the woman to stop she yelled back that she was working on her own residence, court records state.
Another person living in the residence said the windows that had been shot out would cost $2,500 each to replace because their unusual size requires a custom order.
An officer noticed the damage to the windows appeared consistent with the metal pellets recovered by other officers at the scene.
After Whitecrane refused to answer or acknowledge the officers, they left the scene and advised the residents of the home with the broken windows to consider a restraining order, court records state.
Officers were called back to the neighborhood shortly after 7 a.m. on another weapons complaint and were told Whitecrane had made several threatening Facebook posts toward the same residents whose windows had been shot earlier that night.
Court records report the social media posts stated: "(Ive said it (100%) before kill them 711 Birch Lane 2&3 (100%, globe, devil face, angry face emoji)" and "People at 711 Birch Lane 1&2 dead man walking (100%, angry face emoji). This weekend is gonna be pure hell (100%, devel face, smiley face emoji)."
Officers knocked on Whitecrane's residence and tried to make phone contact with her to no avail, court records state. A commander ordered officers to disengage and advised he would be activating the department's SWAT team. Officers saw movement inside the residence and were also advised that Whitecrane was armed with a shotgun and had previously told neighbors she sleeps with the gun on her bed.
Officers set a perimeter around the home and further attempts to contact Whitecrane were unsuccessful. The shooting happened at about 10 a.m., court records state, when Yarlina and other SWAT officers attempted to deliver a "throw phone" into the residence in order to make contact with Whitecrane.
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