Tag Archives: Killed by police

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.

A Staggering Number Of People Were Killed By Police In July




By Killed By Police’s count, at least 120 people were killed by law enforcement in July— more than any other month this year. A Washington Post database counts 96 people who were shot and killed by police, specifically.

In addition to police incidents, another major problem drew national attention in July: deaths behind bars. The death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail, which is currently under investigation, raised questions about being jailed for minor offenses, high bail, mental health assessments for people behind bars, and jail suicides. At least four other black women, a Lakota woman, and a Choctaw activist died in custody as well.

Here is a list of some of the most egregious police brutality cases from the past month:

Samuel DuBose; Cincinnati, OH: DuBose was shot in the head and killed after University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing pulled him over for a missing license plate. Tensing claims he shot his gun because DuBose tried to run him over and dragged him down the street, but a graphic body camera video shows a very different encounter. In the video, Tensing approaches DuBose and asks for a license multiple times. DuBose looks for it and eventually says he does not have it on him, and tells the officer to run his name. Tensing tells him to take his seat belt off, at which point DuBose starts his vehicle. Then the officer shoots him in the head.

On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted Tensing for DuBose’s murder, and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said the shooting was “the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen a cop do.” But on Friday, the same grand jury declined to indict two officers who tried to help Tensing cover-up what happened.

Watch the graphic video here: 

Jonathan Sanders; Stonewall, MS: Sanders was on horseback one night when he stopped to talk to a friend who was seated in a car. Minutes later, Officer Kevin Herrington pulled the friend over and Sanders reportedly told the cop to leave him alone. A short time later, Herrington allegedly approached Sanders, who was still on horseback, and flashed his lights — sending the horse into a frenzy. Sanders fell down and attempted to calm the animal when Herrington jumped out of his vehicle and put Sanders in a deadly chokehold. Herrington says the two struggled and Sanders successfully grabbed his gun. But witnesses, who saw the scene unfold from a house nearby, maintain no struggle ensued and that Herrington put Sanders in a 20-minute hold. One tried to intervene, but the officer would not allow it. Sanders was unarmed, and allegedly said “I can’t breathe” several times before dying of asphyxiation. An FBI-involved investigation is under way, and Herrington is currently on unpaid leave.

Paul Castaway; Denver, CO: Denver police officers shot and killed a mentally illNative American man after his mother called them to help de-escalate her son during an episode. According to Lynn Eagle Feather, her son was trying to scare her with a knife and was hitting himself in the head. Officers first claimed that Castaway stabbed his mother, but she says he only nicked her throat and was just trying to scare her. Police then said Castaway got too close to them with the knife, so they opened fire. But Eagle Feather and other witnesses say he was holding a knife to his own throat when police fired their weapons. An area reporter says he saw surveillance footage of the incident and verified witness testimonies. The Denver Police Department is currently investigating Castaway’s death.

Research shows that a large percentage of people killed by cops each year are mentally ill, and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group in the U.S.

Black Lives Matter Protesters; Cleveland, OH: On the weekend hundreds of activists descended upon Cleveland for the Movement for Black Lives convening, a police officer was caught on camera pepper spraying a crowd of conference attendees who were protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old boy. Witnesses report the boy was approached by officers for not having a bus ticket — across the street from where the conference was held — and that they slammed the teenager to the ground. Transit Police allege they were removed the boy from the bus because he was intoxicated, and sat him down at a bus shelter. Officers say they moved the boy to a cop car because protesters started to gather close by. Other law enforcement agencies got involved when protesters tried to retrieve the boy. Protesters linked arms in a wide circle around the car, and one officer began to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Anthony Dewayne Ware; Tuscaloosa, AL: Police received a call about Ware’s whereabouts, because he was wanted for previously fleeing from law enforcement. After a foot chase into the woods, Ware allegedly struggled with police before they used pepper spray to subdue him. Ware had trouble breathing soon after and collapsed. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The Tuscaloosa Police Department, as well as independent investigators, are looking into the incident, while the six officers who were at the scene continue their duties. Dash cam video will be released when the case is concluded.

Thomas Jennings; New York, NY: Two NYPD officers were filmed brutally beating 24-year-old Jennings for allegedly stealing pizza and salt-and-pepper shakers. In a surveillance video, Jennings is leaning on a counter when Officer Lenny Lutchman comes from behind and grabs his wrist. Jennings puts his hands up before a second officer, Pearce Martinez runs up and punches him in the head several times. Lutchman hits Jennings with a baton while Martinez puts on handcuffs.

Jennings was taken to a local precinct, and a mugshot shows him with a bruised right eye. There, officers filed a complaint against Jennings, arguing that he resisted arrest. Jennings was also charged with theft and holding a switchblade up to a pizza restaurant employee, but he maintains his innocence. The DA opted not to bring the case to a grand jury, and he was released from jail one week after the arrest.

Unidentified; Brooklyn, NY: After a man allegedly refused to identify himself in a Target store, several NYPD officers held him on the floor and punched him repeatedly. One witness, Michael Rolland, recorded the incident with his camera, as other shoppers watched and attempted to intervene. A statement from Target’s press office says store employees contacted police, and the NYPD says the man was charged with “resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.”

Zachary Hammond; Seneca, SC: Seneca officers first approached 19-year-old Zachary Hammond during a narcotics investigation. Hammond allegedly drove a woman to sell drugs (unknowingly) to an undercover cop. According to police, the cop exited his marked vehicle with his weapon drawn, at which point Hammond sped up and drove in his direction. Police Chief John Covington later said the unidentified cop fired two shots at the driver’s side window in self-defense. A coroner reported two bullets were found in Hammond’s chest and collarbone, but a family attorney says the autopsy report shows the bullets were “clearly, clearly shot from the back.” The teenager’s parents say he was probably trying to flee the scene, and that the woman was who the cops were looking for — not their son. The officer involved is currently on paid administrative leave as the State Law Enforcement Division investigates.

Marcus Coleman; Denton, TX: Coleman was tased by an officer while he tried to help a naked screaming woman on the balcony of a hotel. Police were responding to a call about the woman, and when they arrived, she was holding a baby and “in an altered state of mind.” Officers attempted to handcuff her for safety reasons, and Coleman took the baby and placed it in someone’s hands. In a video recorded by a bystander, officers attempt to restrain the woman while Coleman yells — from several feet away — that she needs help. Then an officer tases Coleman, who immediately falls over. He was then arrested for interference.


Native Lives Matter: Police Killing Native Americans At Astounding Rate


Image Credit: Student Put in Paddy Wagon, Light Brigading

By Ruth McCambridge

A recent report by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports that Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Native Americans make up almost two percent of those killed by police though they are only 0.8 percent of the population. While police kill young black men more than any other group, they kill Native Americans at a higher rate.

As with African Americans, these killings are not isolated from the larger problem of police and societal violence, as this devastating article in Counterpunch discusses in the particular context of New Mexico, which in 2014 had the highest rate of police killing in the country. That article reports that “according to a 2003 study by the New Mexico Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Native people experience ‘acts of ethnic intimidation; threats of physical violence, assaults, and other potential hate crimes’ as part of everyday life in border towns like Gallup, Farmington and Albuquerque.”


Chase Iron Eyes is an attorney with the Lakota People’s Law Project in South Dakota, which published a report called “Native Lives Matter” early this year. He says that the DOJ needs to address police violence against Native Americans.

“You can tell they’re shooting out of fear,” he said. “If it’s not out of hate, for some reason they’re pulling the trigger before determining what the situation actually is. Something does need to happen. Somebody does need to take a look and we need help.”

By Ruth McCambridge in Nonprofit Quarterly, July 16, 2015