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Police chief: Man pointed pellet gun at Billings officer before fatal shooting

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Posted at 2:32 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 16:52:20-05

BILLINGS - The man shot and killed by a Billings police officer Tuesday night first pointed a pellet gun at several people, including the officer, before he was shot and killed, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said at a Wednesday news conference.

The officer, Brett Hilde, was placed on paid administrative leave, a typical move for any officer involved in a shooting, St. John said. Hilde has worked for the department for five years and is a member of the street crimes unit.

The incident began around 8 p.m. when police received a call 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," St. John said.

Watch the full news conference below:

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.

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Gun recovered from the scene of an officer-involved shooting.

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 is likely to determine whether the homicide was justified.

Hilde has been placed on paid administrative leave two other times for his involvement in shootings. In June 2020, he suffered 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 struck multiple times but survived.

Hilde was cleared of any misconduct in both shootings.

RELATED: 1 dead in officer-involved shooting in Billings