BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A Billings police officer shot and killed a 38-year-old man wanted in an armed robbery after he ignored the officer’s orders and made a sudden movement during a traffic stop, authorities said Tuesday.
Police Chief Rich St. John identified the deceased as 38-year-old Richard Ramirez of Billings. No weapon was found on Ramirez. He was shot three times.
A search of the vehicle he was traveling in was planned for Tuesday.
St. John said the officer was placed on administrative leave but declined to release his name citing threats against law enforcement over the shooting.
The officer has previously discharged his weapon in the line of duty, St. John said. No details of that prior incident were released.
Ramirez’s death marks the fifth officer-involved shooting in Billings over a span of just under two years.
Authorities say the officer, a five-year veteran of the department, was looking for Ramirez as a suspect in a robbery in which a 61-year-old man had been shot in the arm Sunday. The victim identified Ramirez as the shooter.
At about 11 p.m. Monday, the officer was in the area of the robbery when he spotted a car with Ramirez in the back seat and pulled it over in an alley.
After ignoring the officer’s commands to not move and keep his hands in sight, St. John said Ramirez made a “downward reaching movement.”
“This movement resulted in the officer drawing his weapon and firing three rounds, striking Ramirez in the torso,” St. John said.
A coroner’s inquest will be held as required by state law whenever an officer is involved in a fatal shooting.
Separately, an inquest is scheduled for Wednesday in a fatal July 5 shooting by a Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy outside a Billings shopping center.
In that case, Sheriff’s Lt. Shane Skillen shot 42-year-old Dean Randolph Jess days after Jess escaped from the state prison in Deer Lodge. Jess was in a stolen vehicle and was shot after he made a move for a gun during a standoff with law enforcement.
Since May 2012, there have been three other fatal shootings involving Billings police officers. Each was ruled to be justified during subsequent coroner’s inquests.