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Billings native killed in line of duty as police officer in Arizona remembered

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 03, 2024

BILLINGS — Many in the Billings law enforcement community are remembering Arizona police officer Josh Briese. A Billings native who attended West High, Briese was shot and killed in the line of duty Saturday.

Briese's death hit home for law enforcement at the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, including Capt. Kent O'Donnell, because Briese's father, David, was a sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty in Billings in 2006.

“He was the spitting image of his father personality-wise. He had the quick wit, he liked to joke, he liked to tease,” said O'Donnell at the sheriff's office Monday.

That's how O'Donnell will remember the 23-year-old son of his former colleague, kind, funny, and so much like David.

Josh Briese holds his father's memorial plaque at the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office

“Several of us were actually talking at briefing this morning that this is almost like reliving Dave’s death,” O'Donnell added. “This is beyond tragic. It doesn’t get much worse than this."

Briese was killed after responding to a disturbance at a home Saturday on the Gila River Indian reservation. The disturbance involved a large crowd, and Briese and another officer were both struck by gunfire, according to a Gila River Police Department Facebook post.

Briese been with the department for less than a year.

It's been a painful episode of deja ju for O'Donnell, from working with David to taking his sons, Josh and Justin, under his wing. He watched as Briese grew up with one goal, to be a law enforcement officer.

“He’d made a promise to himself and to his dad that, that’s what he was going to do and he had his heart set on it, and that’s what he became,” O'Donnell said.

“He was always wanting to be, show up and be on the front lines and protect and serve,” said Billings Public Schools teacher Tara Goodwin.

A memorial plaque for David Briese at the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office

Goodwin taught Briese when he was a student at West High. She said she always knew he would achieve any goal he set his mind to, because that's the kind of person he was.
“He was always smiling, he was always bubbly. He was just wanted to help people,” added Goodwin. "He had a big heart."

O'Donnell wishes he could have taken Briese to see his father's name on the memorial wall in Washington, D.C., for Police Week.

“Now here we are, he’s going to get to experience it first hand but it’s going to be when they put his name on the wall,” O'Donnell said.

Justin and Josh Briese stand in front of their father David's memorial on the West End of Billings.

For now, he will reminisce and keep the memory of the Briese family alive.

"He'd had several challenges in his life but he always had a smile on his face and always pushed forward. He was the nicest kid ever and then grew into the nicest young man," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell said the family is still making preparations for the funeral but are planning to bring Briese back home to Montana in the coming days. Yellowstone County sheriff's deputies will make their way to Arizona for a memorial planned there.