BILLINGS — A feud between two groups of teenagers is the reason behind multiple shootings in Billings over the last month, Billings police said Wednesday.
"It definitely appears that these are connected incidents," said Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick, "and they’re isolated to these groups of individuals."
Lennick said police have been watching two groups of juveniles, ranging in ages from 12 to 19 who have been engaging gang activity, since a man was shot in the leg on the MontanaFair midway the night of Aug. 15.
"It looks like the opposing groups have an issue with one another, and unfortunately, they're using gun violence to go back and forth," he said.
Londa Means says bullets hit her South Side house hours after the fair shooting.
"That night after we went to bed, around 3:00 in the morning we heard gunshots," she said. "We woke up the next day and found it was our house."
Means said her 17-year-old son was at MontanaFair on Aug. 15 and got into an altercation.
"It started out over a girl," she said. "Then they were saying stupid, mean words to each other that they took offense it. After that, all these boys tried to surround my son and fight him. He ran over to one of his friends, who came over and said, 'You guys aren't going to jump him.'"
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said his office has identified the person who fired those shots, but the county attorney’s office is still determining whether to file charges and no arrests have been made.
Meanwhile, police say a 17-year-old and 14-year-old have been charged with six counts each of assault with a weapon for a second drive-by shooting at the Means house that happened Sept. 10. Means originally told MTN she didn’t know if the shootings might be random, but now believes differently.
"It is a big possibility that this might not be random," she said.
MTN asked her if she now thinks her son is being targeted.
"Yes I do," she said.
Another house on the 300 block of Jefferson Street, where Means said one of her son's best friends lives, was hit with bullets earlier this month.
Means said her son has attempted to change his lifestyle within the last year, and she is upset he is still being targeted by this group.
"When he was 16, he was heading down a bad road," she acknowledged. "Boys were constantly fighting with him. Last year, he had a lot of boys jump him and break his arm. That's when he started to pull back."
As bad as that sounds, Lennick said the biggest problem is that fighting no longer seems to be the groups’ preferred recourse.
"The fist fight thing is not a thing anymore," he said. "We're making the jump (to gun violence) much sooner."
He also said the age of some of the groups' youngest members - around 12 years old - has the department worried.
"That’s pretty young, as far as gun violence goes," he said. "It’s not unheard of to see some of the younger teenagers be around gun violence, but it’s not common and so that part is troubling."
Means said her 4, 6, and 7-year-old children were in the house Saturday night when the shooting happened. Lennick said that is everyone’s nightmare.
"There are people who are true victims who are being caught in the crosshairs, literally caught in the crosshairs," he said. "That is 100% the worst scenario for us."