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Coroner’s inquest: Billings police officer justified in 2018 shooting death

Posted at 11:05 AM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 13:05:07-05

BILLINGS – A coroner’s jury found Thursday a Billings police officer was justified in the shooting death of Shawn Hubbard.

Hubbard was shot and killed by Sgt. Bret Becker inside the Lucky Lil’s Casino on Grand Avenue on April 10, 2018. In their testimony, officers described what led to the fatal shooting.

Officers said a woman had called to tell them Hubbard had come to her home, banged on the doors and windows and threatened her with a gun.

When officers arrived at the home, they could not locate Hubbard. Officers were told to keep a look out for him, and the woman told officers he may have gone to a casino.

Not long after, Sgt. Pat Curry located the man at Lucky Lil’s Casino. Hubbard had entered the building, which has a security system which requires someone to be buzzed in through the locked door. When Curry tried to enter the building, he could not.

More officers arrived on the scene and they eventually broke through a window in the door to gain entry.  Becker was the first to step inside the casino, which was open for business.

Billings Coroners Inquest
Shawn Hubbard was shot and killed by Sgt. Bret Becker inside a Billings casino on in April of 2018. (MTN News photo)

Becker described to the jury how he observed multiple people crouched on the ground, looking for hiding places. He then saw Hubbard toward the back of the building holding a gun.

Becker said he told Hubbard to drop the weapon multiple times, but he resisted and continued to tell the officers to “leave”. Becker then told the jury that Hubbard said he would shoot and that he had hostages.

“I thought he was going to shoot somebody,” said Becker. “At that point, I was convinced he was going to kill someone. It was going to happen while I was standing there, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.”

That is when Becker shot Hubbard. He said he fell to the ground, but continued to move, looking like he was reaching for something. Becker shot him one more time.

Becker said once Hubbard was shot, three people who had been concealed near Hubbard in the casino got up and ran. Becker said he had not realized how many people had been in close range to Hubbard. He believed those people were the hostages Hubbard had mentioned.

When asked about his decision, Becker told the jury that he did not believe he had another choice, “I was angry that he made me make that decision.”

Mike McCarthy, an instructor with the Montana Law Enforcement Academy who specializes in the use of force, said many people don’t realize how quickly things can go wrong and how little time officers have to react.

He said it takes someone just .37 seconds to pull a gun, point and shoot. It takes the average person 1.5 seconds to react. McCarthy also said Becker was too far away from Hubbard to use another form of force, like a Taser.

McCarthy said given the situation, an armed man who had made threats against police and hostages, there were no good options for responding for officers.

Toxicology reports were also presented. Dr. Aldo Fusaro, the state’s deputy medical examiner, said Hubbard had both methamphetamine and methadone in his system.

He said the levels of meth in Hubbard’s system were some of the highest he had seen. “Not the highest I’ve ever seen, but definitely in the top 10,” said Fusaro.

He also described that his level of methadone, an opioid used for the treatment of pain and to help people with heroin addictions, was almost double a lethal level for someone who had never used the drug before.

-Samantha Sullivan reporting for MTN News