- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - An unarmed robbery suspect raised and lowered his hands six times in defiance of a Montana police officer who fatally shot him during a traffic stop, authorities said Wednesday as they released new details in the case.

With tensions running high between police and the victim’s family, the police chief of Billings said that after reviewing video from the scene he believes the officer was justified in shooting 38-year-old Richard Ramirez.

Ramirez is the fifth person shot and killed by law enforcement in Billings in two years.

All the prior shootings were ruled to be justified. The most recent ruling came Wednesday, when a coroner’s inquest deliberated for just five minutes before finding that a Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy did nothing wrong when he shot an armed fugitive in a stolen car outside a shopping center.

The three other shootings involved city police.

“These criminals … are forcing us to take action. We’re not forcing action on them,” Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said. He suggested Ramirez would not be dead if he had kept his hands showing.

“I’m upset we had a tragic end to this,” he added. “I’m confident we did things properly.”

But citing security concerns authorities continued to withhold the name of the officer who shot Ramirez. St. John said those concerns included the fact that two of Ramirez’s brothers remained at-large on months-old felony warrants for their arrest.

The unnamed officer is a five-year veteran who previously shot his gun in the line of duty in a separate incident, but authorities so far have not released any more details. St. John promised to release more information - including the police video and the identity of the officer - after security concerns have been resolved.

The victim’s family and their supporters criticized the officer for over-reacting during Monday night’s traffic stop and faulted St. John for releasing information about Ramirez’s brothers.

“The family doesn’t need to be slandered,” said the Rev. Tracy Starr, who said he’s acting as a spiritual adviser to the family. “We have to address the issues here. A life has been taken.”

A search of the car in which Ramirez was a passenger found drug paraphernalia but no weapons, St. John said.

His parents described Ramirez as a single, unemployed father who had prior run-ins with authorities but was not violent.

He was charged by authorities with drug possession and drug distribution in cases from 2004 and 2005. In 2008, Ramirez was sentenced in another case to time served after spending 58 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer.

His two younger brothers are being sought on multiple charges.

Jason Ramirez, 32, has been wanted since Jan. 21 for failure to register as a violent offender, criminal possession of drugs with intent to distribute, theft and a parole violation on an earlier robbery charge.

Daniel Ramirez, 37, has been wanted since Feb. 4 for possession of dangerous drugs and burglary.

In Monday’s shooting, the officer had been searching for Richard 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, authorities said.

The officer was in the area of the robbery when he recognized Ramirez in the back seat of a car that he followed for several blocks and into an alley, St. John said.

During the next 32 seconds, the officer issued seven commands for Ramirez to stop moving or put his hands up. Throughout that time, St. John said, Ramirez could be seen on the video raising and lowering both hands. The officer fired after Ramirez reached downward, the chief said.

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