- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities on Friday were trying to identify a man who was shot and killed by Yellowstone County deputies after he reportedly accelerated toward them in a stolen vehicle.

The shooting Thursday marks the fourth shooting by law enforcement officers in Montana in the past three weeks.

Two deputies were responding to a report of a burglary along White Buffalo Road near Huntley around 4:30 p.m. when they spotted a stolen vehicle, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said.

The deputies followed the vehicle, but they got stuck in the snow during the pursuit. The suspect turned around and was driving the SUV toward one of the deputies when the deputies fired, killing the driver, Linder said.

“It appears both deputies fired,” the sheriff said.

How many shots were fired and how many times the man was hit were under investigation. An autopsy was planned Friday afternoon.

The driver did not have any identification on him, and Linder said authorities have found no one who knew him.

It was unknown if the driver had any weapons.

He was “armed with a vehicle,” Linder said, but the sheriff declined to say whether the shooting appeared justified.

The stolen SUV was from Billings. Authorities were looking into whether the dead man had any connection to the burglary report.

A warrant was being sought to search the vehicle.

Under Montana law, any death caused by a law enforcement officer must be reviewed by a coroner’s jury during a public inquest to determine if the killing was justified.

The two deputies were put on paid administrative leave. Their names were not immediately released.

The recent flurry of officer-involved shootings began Dec. 22, when a Deer Lodge police officer shot and killed Nicholas Tyson Frazier, 28. Frazier, who was suicidal, had pointed a gun at officers who were trying to negotiate with him, authorities said.

On Dec. 31, Missoula Police Officer Paul Kelly shot 20-year-old Kaileb Cole Williams in the head as Williams was strangling his girlfriend in a car. Initial results of an investigation showed nothing improper about the use of force in the case.

Also on New Year’s Eve, during a response to a domestic assault report, Missoula County sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Rio shot and injured Eugene Albert Statelen, 42, after Statelen reportedly drove his car toward Rio.

In yet another recent case, a coroner’s jury on Wednesday cleared Billings Police Officer Grant Morrison of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting last April of an unarmed man who was high on methamphetamine during a traffic stop.

Morrison also shot and killed a man in 2013. That shooting, too, was ruled to be justified.


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