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Bodycams in Billings: How residents feel after jury rules officer justified in shooting death

No bodycam footage
Billings Police investigate officer-involved shooting Oct. 2020
Posted at 6:46 PM, Nov 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-17 10:21:52-05

BILLINGS — After a jury ruled on Monday in Yellowstone County District Court that Officer Brett Hilde's actions in a February 2022 shooting were justified, area residents and police are weighing in on bodycams.

Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick said Wednesday that although Hilde didn't start his bodycam recording, sufficient evidence justifies the shooting.

"Even without the recording from Officer Hilde, there was still other footage from other officers and there were radio logs. There was enough information to be able to put together what happened," Lt. Lennick says.

But this case hits home for some Montanans.

“My brother was killed in a police-involved shooting, and the officers didn’t have bodycams at that time,” says Tasheena Duran of Rocky Boy.

Duran's brother, Cole Stump, was killed in Billings in an officer-involved shooting in October 2020. While some law enforcement in Yellowstone County at that time had body cameras, the incident was not captured on video.

A jury found the officers involved in that fatal shooting's actions were also justified, but Duran has a hard time believing the verdict without video evidence.

“If the officers did everything right, they should want to record it. These recordings should help these officers. But when they fail to do so, it makes it seem very suspicious," Duran explains.

And if one tragedy in the family wasn't enough—Duran says her family is related to Raymond Dupree's family.

“It hurts all over again. Knowing the pain that this family’s going through, it sucks. It hurts. It makes me relive my brother's (death) over again,” Duran explains. "It’s easy to say one thing, but without proof, I have a hard time believing Billings PD."

But others agree with the jury's ruling in the Dupree case.

“I think they have a really hard job, and it gets harder every day in this town. I don’t think people give them enough credit for what they do and for what their families have to deal with while they’re out doing their job,” explains Julie Hovland of Billings on Wednesday.

Hovland participated in one of the Billings Police Department's citizens' police academy and says she got an in-depth look at what these officers go through on a daily basis.

“I took the class and learned what it’s like to go out on these calls with these people," Hovland says. "What they see, what they have to deal with, how fast things happen."

Hovland explains that she agrees with the jury's verdict in justifying Hilde's actions.

"In this case, he stepped out of the car, and a gun was already pointed at him. You don’t have time to say, ‘Hey, stop, hold on a minute, let me press my little button,’ it doesn’t happen like that. You have a split second to decide whether you’re going to go home to your family that night,” Hovland explains.

But Lennick explains that a new policy is in place that instructs officers to always record when interacting with civilians.

"They’re used to record the interactions between the officers and whoever they’re speaking to, document crime scenes or evidence, whatever the camera sees is what is used with the body cam footage,” Lennick says. “This allows everybody to be able to see things exactly how they happened or how it was recorded.”

In the February shooting of Dupree, Hilde did not press the record button on his older-model camera, a Vista.

“The Vista does not have pre-record. Those have to be turned on. So there’s not that minute of pre-record that is in with these (newer models),” Lennick explains.

Lennick explains that the department purchased all new bodycams, the Motorola V300 model, and they have 120 on hand.

If officers do not record interactions, an internal review is conducted and disciplinary actions are taken if needed.

"It really does provide a benefit to the department, and to the court system," Lennick says. "It allows us to provide that perspective that you didn’t have before."