- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A seven-person jury will review the killing of an unarmed man by a Billings police officer to determine if the shooting was justified.

Police say Officer Grant Morrison shot 38-year-old Richard Ramirez in April during a traffic stop after Ramirez failed to obey the officer’s command to keep his hands visible and appeared to reach for something while seated in the back of the car.

Big Horn County Coroner Terry Bullis will preside over the inquest set to begin Tuesday at Yellowstone County Courthouse, the Billings Gazette reported (https://tinyurl.com/lfmzns7) Sunday. The inquest is expected to last two days.

Senior Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ed Zink will present the results of the investigation of the killing.

“It is important that the process presents all relevant and pertinent facts so that the coroner’s jury can make an informed decision about the actions of the involved officer,” Zink said in a statement.

Zink anticipates calling as many as 17 witnesses, including Morrison and Dr. Tom Bennett, a forensic pathologist who did the autopsy on Ramirez.

The killing was videotaped by a dashboard camera in Morrison’s patrol car. Zink has said the video, which has not yet been made public, will be shown during the inquest and released when it’s over.

Members of Ramirez’s family have said they want charges filed against Morrison.

Montana law requires an inquest when someone is killed by law enforcement or dies in a prison or jail. The proceeding is similar to a trial in that a prosecutor presents evidence and witness testimony and recommends a finding to the jury. However, there is no defense team. Members of the jury may question witnesses.

Unlike a jury trial, where verdicts must be unanimous, the decision in an inquest is reached by majority vote.

There were four fatal officer-involved shootings in Yellowstone County in 2013, including another one involving Morrison.

A previous inquest determined Morrison was justified in the killing of 32-year-old Jason James Shaw after Shaw ignored Morrison’s commands and reached for a weapon, which was later found to be a BB gun, testimony showed.

The Ramirez shooting was the only fatal officer-involved shooting in Billings in 2014.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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