Native American Man Killed during Armed Standoff with Police at Montana Gun Store

SWAT stage outside Big Bear Sports Center (Photo: CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff)

Frank Joey Half Jr was killed by SWAT officers during Big Bear standoff

A Native American man was shot and killed by police in Montana during a 10-hour standoff on the weekend at a Billings sporting goods store that sells firearms and ammunition.

On Monday, The Billings Police Department (BPD) identified the dead man as Frank Joey Half Jr., 30 of Crow Agency.

Frank Joey Half Jr, of Crow Agency killed by police officers

According to media reports, after allegedly attempting to steal ammunition and guns from a Walmart, Half Jr smashed his red sport utility vehicle into the front of the Big Bear Sports Center across the road at about 3 a.m. Saturday and barricaded himself inside.

Law enforcement officers take cover at the front entrance of Big Bear Sports Center.

SWAT used a large armored vehicle, called the Bear, to pull the SUV out of the front entrance and block Half Jr from exiting the store.

Officers deployed multiple non-lethal tactics, such as deploying pepper-spray and the use of an LRAD, which is a device that emits a high pitched screech sound.

Half Jr reportedly fired multiple times in the direction of officers.

Police officers tried to negotiate with Half Jr but all attempts to speak with him resulted in silence and a hang-up.

Around mid-morning, Half Jr appeared at the front of the store and fired a high-powered rifle round into the windshield of the Bear where the negotiator was seated.

The BEAR armored vehicle after it rammed into the front of Big Bear Sports Center.

After multiple exchanges of gunfire with officers, Half Jr was found dead inside the store wearing body armor.

Police were able to access the store’s security cameras and used that footage to help determine that Half Jr was dead.

No officers were injured in the incident.

Police say eight officers fired shots at various times during the standoff and all are on administrative leave.

Those officers are all members of the Billings SWAT Team:

  • Sgt. Harley Cagle, a 14-year veteran.
  • Sgt. Brandon Wooley, a 10-year veteran
  • Sgt. Nate West, a 10-year veteran.
  • Officer Steve Swanson, a 21-year veteran.
  • Officer Tanner Buechler, a 10-year veteran.
  • Officer Daren Haider, an eight-year veteran.
  • Officer Michael Yarina, a seven-year veteran.
  • Officer Ryan Kramer, a three-year veteran.

This is Swanson’s third shooting incident, according to BPD.

An autopsy completed Monday confirmed Half Jr was shot and killed by police officers.

Police had previously been unable to confirm whether his death was self-inflicted.

An investigation into the lengthy standoff is being conducted by the BPD, Police Lt. Neil Lawrence stated in an email to The Billings Gazette Tuesday. No other law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigation, he said.

The Associated Press reports, the Big Bear store suffered significant damage, including damage to water and gas service as officers tried to clear debris from the front of the store. Half Jr damaged numerous display cases and emptied several fire extinguishers and fired an unknown number of shots inside the building using a handgun, shotgun and rifle.

Big Bear Sports Center after Saturday’s police-involved standoff and shooting. LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

Half Jr, who has a lengthy criminal history, had most recently been living in Great Falls where he was in a pre-release program.

Police have not determined a motive for the standoff.