BILLINGS — After about 30 minutes of deliberations Monday, a citizen’s jury delivered a verdict to a tense and tearful courtroom: Billings police officer Brett Hild was acquitted of shooting Raymond Dupree Jr. eight times with force, killing him at the scene in February. .
According to Montana state law, following an officer-involved shooting, the county attorney’s office must conduct a coroner’s inquest into the incident before a citizen’s jury to determine whether the officer’s use of force was justified.
It happened Monday, nine months after Dupree’s death.
“I’m sorry you had to be here today for this. It’s not something you ever wanted to do, but it’s very important,” said Yellowstone County Deputy Chief County Attorney Ed Zink.
“It’s important to Mr. Dupree’s family, some of whom are in the courtroom this morning, it’s important to Officer Hilde, it’s important to this community, and when something like this happens we look at it publicly and look at it. Do it very carefully,” Zink said.
Hilde shot and killed 39-year-old Dupree on the evening of February 15 on Seventh Street West near Broadwater Avenue.
Hilde and other officers were responding to calls from motorists of a man walking down the street holding a handgun and pointing it at cars.
When officers arrived, Dupree pointed a gun at them, prompting Hilde to shoot Dupree eight times.
The gun in Dupree’s possession was later identified as a pellet gun.
Some points that emerged during the inquest: The officers, including Hilde, responding to the call were in plain clothes and in unmarked vehicles. Hilde failed to turn on her bodycam during the incident and during the shooting.
Video of the shooting, captured for the first time from a nearby homeowner’s security system, shows the lapse of seconds between the officers’ arrival, commands shouted at Dupree, and the shooting.
Following the incident, the officers involved in the February shooting were placed on administrative leave and later returned to work.
The jury’s decision is advisory only, and if a question of use of force remains unresolved, it is up to the county attorney’s office to take the case further.