Officials identify man who died after Montana standoff
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man who first tried to steal ammunition and guns from a Montana Walmart, then engaged police in a standoff at a sporting goods store, eventually exchanged gunfire with officers and was found dead inside the store, authorities said Monday.
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John identified the suspect as Frank Joey Half Jr., a 30-year-old from Crow Agency. He had been released from a pre-release center in Butte on Oct. 25, officials with the Department of Corrections said.
Half has convictions for criminal endangerment and drug possession.
After leaving Walmart, St. John said Half smashed his sport utility vehicle into the front of Big Bear Sports Center at about 3 a.m. Saturday and barricaded himself inside.
Half had all the advantages, St. John said, noting he was inside a massive building with guns, ammunition, clothing and food and officers couldn’t see him unless he was near the front of the store.
Half refused to negotiate with officers, exchanged gunfire with them and at least once feigned surrender, only to fire more shots, St. John said.
Officers used pepper spray and an “audio distraction device,” to try and drive Half from the building, but nothing worked, St. John said.
“We tried everything that we could to resolve this peacefully, and unfortunately, we couldn’t,” he said.
Half was found wearing body armor and police have “no indication” that he killed himself, St. John said. There has been no official word yet on the cause of Half’s death. St. John said an autopsy was being conducted Monday morning.
A Walmart employee told officers that Half appeared impaired. St. John said the autopsy would provide more information.
The Big Bear store suffered significant damage, including damage to water and gas service as officers tried to clear debris from the front of the store. Half damaged numerous display cases and emptied several fire extinguishers and fired an unknown number of shots inside the building using a handgun, shotgun and rifle, St. John said.
Officers have not determined a motive for the standoff.
Eight officers fired shots at various times and all are on administrative leave during the investigation, St. John said. An inquest will be scheduled.