NewsCrime Watch


'Something needs to change': As Billings violent crimes climb, one family waits for answers

Posted at 11:16 AM, Dec 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 14:46:47-05

BILLINGS - From homicides to home invasions, crime in Billings has captured public attention across Montana and beyond and preliminary data from the Billings Police Department puts those stories into numbers.

Billings police data includes incidents of a variety of violent crimes, including robberies, homicides, sexual assault and sexual intercourse without consent, stabbings, shootings, assault with a weapon, and more. It also compares figures from 2022 with 2021 and 2020.

Police Lt. Matt Lennick said the preliminary numbers provided are from January 2022 to November 30, 2022, and that the numbers have not yet been audited, meaning they will change when the department reviews the numbers in early 2023.

An example Lennick gives is the current data shows 12 homicides committed in 2022, but BPD has 16 homicide investigations opened in 2022, including three officer-involved shootings in which officers shot and killed suspects.

But the preliminary data shows violent crime is continuing to climb post-pandemic.

One figure that jumps out is a sharp increase in reports of assault with a firearm. Police report 94 calls for service related to assault with a firearm in 2022, compared to 80 calls in 2021 and 60 calls in 2020.

There were 143 robberies listed in 2022, compared to 138 in 2021 and 129 in 2020.

Assault with a weapon offenses and sexual assault cases closely resembled numbers in 2021 and 2020, with 321 reports of assault with a weapon and 132 reports of sexual assault in 2022.

For some families, the weight of crime still hangs over them as they wait for answers in pending cases.

On Aug. 20, 30-year-old Michael Duran was shot and killed in an apparent road rage incident. Five months later there have been no arrests and no charges.

As the community looks back and reflects on crime in 2022, Duran's friends and family are looking forward in 2023 hoping they get answers and action.

“If I could have on my Christmas wish this year, it would be that we had an arrest and that the county attorney’s office had a very great case against mitigated homicide is what they’re going for, which is manslaughter," said a friend, Sabra Mack. "Do I agree with that? No. But if that’s all we can get, at least there’s some accountability being taken and that kind of thing. But my heart will break if there’s no charges. I simply don’t know what that means. I don’t know what that looks like in this world. He’s not here. A very beautiful person is not here because of another person. I want to know who he is. I want to know why he did what he did to Michael.”

Miles from the place where Duran was killed, Mack is working to make sure his death is not forgotten.

“It’s been five months tomorrow since Michael took his last breath and there’s nothing, there’s nothing happening, and to me that’s unacceptable,” Mack said.

Mack is the postmaster of the Melstone Post Office, and she met Duran while she was performing at the Alberta Bair Theater last May and Duran was working there as a sound engineer.

“I was connected to him immediately," she said. "It was like I’ve known him my whole life.”

Now she runs a "Justice for Michael" Facebook page.

Duran was shot and killed in what police described as a road rage incident. The shooting happened on Forth Avenue North outside the Q2 station, and security cameras caught the entire incident.

In the video, the driver of the first car gets out and Duran and the man and another person from the first car argue until the other driver punches Duran in the face.

The two men fight for several minutes until Duran was shot. He died at a Billings hospital.

Duran's death was one of 12 homicides reported to Billings police between January and early December of 2022.

While waiting for answers, Duran's mother has been following the Billings community from her home in California.

“I’ve never seen violence like it," said Sylvia Duran. "I’ve been following your guy's city and I’ve seen violence. Something needs to change.”

She continued: “I live in a big city. I’ve never seen so many violent reportings like I do in Billings and something has got to change. The county attorney needs to step up and get it together, they need to take charge of your city.”

Duran's case is in the hands of the Yellowstone County Attorney's Office where it remains under review.

“We’re just waiting for the County Attorney’s Office to give us a call," said Sylvia Duran. "We haven’t heard anything from them. It’s hard because we can’t put it to rest, we can’t move on until this is resolved.”

Mack is also waiting for word on how the case of her friend's death will be resolved.

“I would hope that in a year we’re in trial," she said. "I’ll be there every single day. Every single day.”


Family of Michael Duran speak about son's death in Billings road-rage incident

'Extremely special': Friend remembers Billings road-rage victim