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'As safe as we can': Billings police outline decisions leading to standoff

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 17, 2023

BILLINGS — Early Wednesday morning, multiple calls to 911 were made about hearing gunshots and when three people arrived at a Billings hospital with gunshot wounds, the Billings Police Department attempted to quickly figure out what had happened.

Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick said once the victims were treated and were able to speak to police, the information given made law enforcement
believe the suspect, 39-year-old Darrell Bryant, was still inside the home both he and the victims were living in.

“Information was (Bryant was) in residence, armed and alone. And when you have those together you have time on our side. So, everything is done methodically," Lennick said Thursday. "We’re going to go through all these steps and we know it's going to take time. And until something happens or we know more information, we’re just going to go through these steps.”

Those steps were setting up a perimeter to lockdown, evacuating any residence close by, and proceeding with the process of a standoff. Police shut down King Avenue West from 32nd Street West to 36th Street West. Lennick said police evacuated the neighbors directly next to the residence in question.

"There’s always the potential he starts shooting or we get into an exchange of gunfire with him. We’re responsible for all those rounds. So, the last thing we can have are civilians commuting to work behind us, right? So, you have to stop all that, you have to shut it down to make it as safe as we can make it,” Lennick said.

Officers responded to the 10 block of West Meadow Drive around 1:50 a.m., and a few hours later were attempting to get Bryant out of the home.

“I know I got the notification at about 4:30 in the morning that SWAT was going to be activated. So, there was a few hours between gathering enough information, where he was and locking down that area,” Lennick said.

RELATED: Suspect in Billings standoff arrested in Columbus

The businesses in the King Plaza lot were able to open on Wednesday morning, even as police were using the parking lot as a command center during the standoff.

"Business went on as usual,” said Cathy Gaynor, the receptionist at Back Country Family Chiropractic. “The whole Billings Police Department command center was set up in our parking lot and I’m like, 'Wow, something huge is going on,' and I had no clue what it was.”

Gaynor knew that a portion of King Avenue West was closed by her work, so she left her home earlier than usual and was still able to enter the parking lot once she arrived at work. She said she was quickly informed by officers what was happening and was updated when new information was available.

"I cannot say enough good about our Billings police officers," Gaynor said.

After about seven hours of Billings police and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office SWAT members trying to make contact with Bryant inside the home, law enforcement went inside.

“We had completely established this guy is not in here, and now we need to start expanding our, you know, where we’re going to go,” Lennick said.

Steps were being taken to get to the point of informing the general public that the suspect could be on the loose in the Billings area, but less than an hour after the home was cleared, Bryant was located in Stillwater County.

“There was a connection to somebody that potentially gave him a ride out of the area, figured out where that person was, out in Columbus, Stillwater County. Columbus PD were able to help right away,” Lennick said.

Columbus police waited until Billings police arrived before making an attempt to arrest Bryant. Once more officers arrived on the scene, Bryant was arrested after surrendering without issue, according to Lennick.

Bryant faces three counts of attempted deliberate homicide, though prosecutors have yet to file formal charges. The person who potentially gave him a ride from Billings to Columbus was questioned by police, but Lennick said that person was not arrested.