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Magnet for crime: Billings police form plan to patrol popular bar

America's Wild West
Posted at 6:43 PM, Feb 27, 2023

BILLINGS — Billings police have responded to a staggering 213 incidents at America's Wild West in the past 14 months—an above-average call volume that police say warrants special plans for patrolling the dance club and bar.

"Because you have these calls for service coming in so frequently and a lot of times with such a violent nature, it requires more than one officer to show up. And with these large crowds, you wouldn't go in by yourself, you wouldn't even go in with two, you need to go with three or four for safety measures," says Lt. Matt Lennick with Billings Police Department.

Lennick says this pulls resources from other parts of the city.

"Really the effect is that other people have to wait," he said.

One of these recent calls police responded to was an assault with a weapon on Feb. 22.

It's this case that has Lupe Garza and his friend, Derek Coffman, speaking out.

"The community needs to come together and stand up, this business should be shut down," Garza said Monday.

Garza and Coffman said they were involved in an argument over a pool table that turned into a fight in the parking lot.

In the parking lot, shots were fired.

"The bartender came out with a gun and shot at me once," Coffman said.

Garza interjeced, "I said then, 'this isn't going to happen' and I stood between Derek and the guy who was holding the gun."

No one was injured, and a bar employee was charged with two felony counts of assault with a weapon.

This incident happened just 10 days after 21-year-old Beau Harlan Beaumont was shot and killed in the parking lot of America's Wild West.

Xavier Buffalo, 18, was arrested and charged with homicide in Beaumont's death.

This was the second homicide to occur at the bar in a year, afterDomonic Shawn Dale Morgan was shot and killed by a 19-year-old man on April 23, 2022.

MTN reached out to America's Wild West owners, who said they won't comment on specific cases but added that they are working with police to help patrol the bar. Police say that includes making the park a no-loitering zone, which allows officers to come onto the property when people are hanging out in parking lots.

Lennick says the call load is above average compared to most bars in Billings, including bars with similar services, such as Daisy Duke's downtown.

"A lot of that comes when you start introducing an 18-and-over crowd compared to a 21-and-over crowd. The mix of age groups, while it doesn't seem like a lot, seems to cause a lot more issues. We've seen that in the past with other establishments. And we're seeing the same thing with this establishment," Lt.
Coffman, who is originally from Indiana, says the incident has soured him on Billings as a whole.

"I don't want to be here at all. I want to go home," Coffman said.