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Police suspect gang ties in shooting death of Rocky football player

Chandler Stalcup was likely an innocent party, police say
Billings CSI
Posted at 6:26 PM, Oct 31, 2023

BILLINGS — The teenage suspects in Saturday's deadly shooting are likely tied to a gang presence in Billings, police said Tuesday, but they believe the 18-year-old Rocky Mountain football player who was killed was an innocent party.

Billings police say putting together the story of what happened shows Chandler Stalcup, whom they refer to as "the victim," came to help a friend following a fight at a house party on 15th Street West.

“One of them called our victim for a ride. So the victim was not involved in the original disturbance or the original party," said Lt. Matt Lennick with the Billings Police Department. "He left what we think is campus or that area to come pick up these other individuals.”

A first round of shots were fired and people fled the area, including Stalcup, who drove one car while the suspects were in another car.

“Then they ended up catching up to our victim in the 900 block of Poly thinking that they were involved in the original disturbance, even though he was not," Lennick said. "Then there was a shot fired there and that's when he was hit.”

Stalcup was taken to the hospital and later died of his injuries.

Related: 'Anger, fear, sadness:' Friends remember Rocky football player killed in shooting

A 16-year-old Billings teen boy was arrested for deliberate homicide and a 17-year-old Billings teen boy was arrested for accountability of deliberate homicide.

Billings police believe the suspects are tied to a growing gang presence in the surrounding area.

“It appears that it probably is related to the gang issues that we've seen arise in our community," Lennick said. "Definitely some ties if they're not directly related.”

Lennick said the department is shifting resources internally to handle gang-related crime, tied mostly to two gangs with about 100 members.

“Right now we've diverted our resources in our street crimes unit to help mitigate some of these issues," Lennick said. "Our detective division is working on all the cases that are associated with these groups and our patrol is genuinely just trying to gather information or dealing with calls for service that relate to that, and then diverting that information up to detectives or street crimes so that they can deal with it on the back end.”

Like suspects arrested in Saturday's shooting, others identified as gang members are teenagers.

"I think the large majority are from what we know, we're going to be dealing with those mid to late teens, maybe some in the early adult stages at 18 to 20, just because aged out of that, but still maybe being involved in different things. But for the most part, it's young adults to teenagers," Lennick said.

Law enforcement is coordinating with other agencies in handling these cases, including probation and parole, and the courts.

“We're seeing increases in gang activity, particularly in the Billings area, and we're working closely with all of our partners, federal, state, and local, to try to be proactive about it," said Jesse Laslovich, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.

Laslovich said his office is seeing an increase of federal cases related to violent juvenile gang activity, predominantly in the Billings area, but that it's not a problem exclusive to Montana.

"I just came from a conference with other United States attorneys throughout the country. This is not unique to Montana, it's not unique to Billings," Laslovich said. "For whatever reason, we are seeing this throughout the country and a discussion needs to take place, at least at the federal level, about what it is we do, how we handle these violent juveniles."

Laslovich says there is a gang enhancement that can be added to certain federal cases, though he has not yet used it for a juvenile criminal case in Montana. He adds that in addressing gang activity, he wants Montanans to know that the multi-agency coordination of local, state, and federal resources is strong throughout the state.

"This is a fine line. We want to actually draw attention to it, let people know we're aware of it, let people know we're dedicating resources to it. But the other side of it is I don't want people to panic and think that the entire community of Billings is being overrun by gangs," Laslovich said. "It's a fine line. Our job is to hold people accountable and that's what we intend on doing."