Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said Thursday night that methamphetamine use is the common denominator in nearly all the recent police shootings.
In his quarterly talk with Billings residents, St. John said officers use multiple tools to diffuse situations, including verbal commands, pepper spray, batons and tasers, and lastly, lethal force.
"When we evaluate that, the question that is asked is not if the use of force was legal, not if it was justified, whether it was reasonable. That's the standard. Based on the circumstances that you're confronted with - and this was a Supreme Court ruling basically says you, me, John Q citizen, has no right and is not allowed to second guess an officer when they use deadly force," St. John said at his Chat with the Chief talk at Lewis & Clark Middle School.
St. John's came during a week when Billings police officers shot and killed two people in separate incidents within 24 hours. On Monday morning, a man, identified as Zachary Glen Hoven, wielding a knife came at two officers in a downtown Billings apartment. One officer fired a Taser gun, which failed to stop Hoven, and the other fired three shots that killed him. Both officers are on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
The next morning around 1:30 a.m., Shawn Michael Hubbard, 44, entered a Billings West End casino and threatened patrons with what appeared to be a gun and was shot and killed by police. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun. One officer has been placed on administrative leave.
St. John said since 2015, there have been seven fatal officer-involved shootings in Billings, five of those within the last six months.
At the talks St. John also fielded questions ranging from the recent outbreak in graffiti across the city to the protocol involving high speed police chases.