BILLINGS - A Billings police officer has been disciplined following an off-duty incident outside a bar in January.
Officer Matt Frank has received a two-week suspension without pay along with other measures following the Jan. 15 incident outside the Grandstand Sports Bar and Casino. During the incident, Frank and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Smart, who was also off duty, got into a confrontation with a man in the parking lot.
The incident began at about 12:45 a.m. when Frank, Smart and a third man were standing outside the bar when 24-year-old Louis Delgado drove through the parking lot and shouted at the men to "get the f*** out of the way."
In response, one of the men shouted back at Delgado and Frank threw his knee into the driver's side door of the car Delgado was driving, according to surveillance video of the incident.
Delgado stopped the car and, according to his attorney, pulled out a gun in self-defense fearing the three men were going to harm him. A struggle ensued and Frank and Smart lunged into the car to try and get control of the weapon.
Seconds later, Smart pulled back as though he’s been hit in the face with something, and the incident was initially reported as a shooting.
Delgado sped away but returned a few minutes later just as responding officers arrived. A brief chase then took place before Delgado crashed his car and was seriously injured.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the department said it imposed disciplinary action against Frank on May Monday stemming from the incident in January. The press release states Frank, a 9.5-year member of the department, had been placed on desk duty since the incident where he remained during the ensuing months.
A parallel criminal investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation is ongoing, the press release states.
Along with a two-week suspension, the disciplinary action against Frank includes:
• Termination held in abeyance (dismissal probation or Last Chance Agreement)
• Transfer from specialized position to patrol.
• Ineligible for collateral duty or specialized assignments.
• Mandatory training – ethics, integrity, conflict management.
• Mandatory counseling.
• 24-month probationary period.
"The City requires that all Police officers’ off-duty conduct be exemplary and beyond reproach," the press release states. "Therefore, even though Officer Frank’s conduct in this matter occurred while he was off-duty, the City conducted a thorough, rigorous, internal investigation, followed by careful review at all levels."
Police Chief Rich St. John said in the press release he was "deeply troubled" by the incident.
"I am deeply troubled by the officer’s actions. I am responsible for any department deficiencies in general, and officers specifically. I take full responsibility for this incident and need to do a better job ensuring that all members of the BPD understand our values and expectations for their conduct, regardless of whether the member is on-duty or off-duty. We will redouble our efforts in areas of peer support and counseling so in the future, we can create a healthy culture that supports officers like Matt Frank, who until this incident was an exemplary officer and consummate professional, from doing something to damage their career.”
Update 3:45 p.m. Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said his agency is in the process of determining discipline for Smart, and he will likely announce a decision next week.