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Officer shot during Billings Heights standoff identified

Guns found inside suspect Mary White Crane's home
Birch Lane standoff
Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 20, 2023

BILLINGS — Billings Police Chief Rich St. John went in-depth Monday discussing the timeline and events during the 14-hour standoff between 57-year-old Mary White Crane and multiple law enforcement agencies from around the state Saturday.

St. John said that Mike Yarina was the officer shot. Yarina has been on the police force for 13 years and was struck by a bullet around 10:45 that morning when attempting to throw a phone to White Crane.

Officer shot during Birch Lane standoff identified

“The shot penetrated a ballistic shield carried by the lead officer and struck him just below the body armor and in his lower abdomen,” St. John said at a news conference at the Billings police training facility.

As of Monday afternoon, Yarina was in stable condition at a local hospital. He was likely struck with a high-speed round from one of the multiple firearms found inside White Crane's home.

“On scene were two shotguns, a 12-and-20-gauge, and slug rounds," St. John said.

St. John said four Billings police officers fired lethal rounds at White Crane during the standoff, but what ultimately lead to her surrender was the use of controlled demolition tactics and the use of a high-powered fire hose. The hose was provided by the Billings Fire Department, but law enforcement used the hose on the residence.

The four, identified by St. John as Sgt. Nate West, Officer Dustin Stroble, Officer Jayden Romero and Officer Rylan Nelson, were all placed on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation the state Division of Criminal Investigation. This action is typical for incidents involving officers shooting at suspects.

'Frozen in shock': Neighbors react to Birch Lane standoff

Law enforcement tore both sides of White Crane's trailer off trying to find her, as she had barricaded herself in a way that officers were unable to see her movements during the standoff.

“Essentially what you’re doing when you have barricaded subjects is you start tearing their barricade apart…More times than not, when their barricades are gone, they give up,” St. John said. “We are here to preserve life; property is secondary, and unfortunately you have one individual that held a neighborhood hostage for many, many hours.”

St. John also said that police did not kill any of White Crane's three dogs, contrary to claims she made on social media during the standoff. All three dogs were found alive after White Crane was arrested, he said.

St. John also credited the FBI for taking steps to help disable access to her Facebook account, which she had been using since the start of the standoff.

St. John said the standoff could have ended much quicker if they wanted them to end differently, especially as emotions were running high after an officer was wounded, but he was proud of his team, for putting the sanctity of life above all else no matter how long it took.

“The ones we got now are much much longer and I think it’s because of the extraordinary efforts we’re trying to do to ensure safety for everybody,” St. John said.