An initial investigation has found a Missoula police officer was justified in shooting a 20-year-old man early Wednesday following a 100-mph chase down West Broadway.
Authorities on Friday identified the dead man as Kaileb Cole Williams.
Williams died in his mother's car on the highway ramp connecting West Broadway with North Reserve Street, after police say he tried to strangle his girlfriend and would not respond to officers' orders.
Missoula County Sheriff's Detective Lt. Scott Newell released the man's name. The sheriff's office is investigating the shooting because it involved a city police officer.
Newell said Williams had been living in Missoula for less than a year.
The officer who shot Williams was identified as Cpl. Paul Kelly. He is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. However, Newell said that nothing in his investigation indicates Kelly's use of lethal force wasn't justified.
"He (Williams) had the female in a lethal stranglehold," Newell said.
The situation erupted Wednesday around 2 a.m., when dispatchers received a call from Williams' mother, reporting that she had been assaulted by her son and he had driven off in her car with his girlfriend.
She said her son might have a knife. In addition, her purse, containing scissors and pepper spray, was in the car that he had taken.
Newell said Williams was intoxicated and had reportedly used spice, a synthetic version of marijuana, for a few days. The girlfriend called his mother and asked her for a ride away from the Missoula residence.
When the mother arrived, Newell said, the girlfriend got into the car without overnight bags, so the mother went into the house to retrieve some of her personal belongings.
While she was retrieving those items, Williams reportedly attacked his mother, giving her a bloody nose, and driving away in the car with the girlfriend inside.
As he led police on a high-speed chase around Missoula, he was almost apprehended near the Safeway on West Broadway. Again, though, he fled in his mother's car, reaching speeds of 100 mph and heading toward North Reserve Street, Newell said.
Newell said the car inexplicably came to a stop as Williams drove the wrong way up the ramp connecting West Broadway to North Reserve.
Officers approached the vehicle, and Williams told them to back away. Kelly was the only officer close enough to the vehicle to engage in verbal dialogue with the suspect, Newell said.
You have free articles remaining.
Because it was dark out, officers couldn't get a clear view of what was happening in the car. The girlfriend appeared to be lying down in the car and was yelling for help. They made several attempts to break the car windows to rescue the woman, but were unsuccessful.
Kelly engaged in a five-minute conversation with Williams, but Williams remained uncooperative with the officer, Newell said.
According to the initial investigation, Kelly fired one shot into the driver's-side window – fatally wounding Williams in the head. Newell said there were no other shots fired.
At that point, officers reached through the shattered driver's-side window and unlocked the door. Williams' body fell out onto the ramp, and they were able to pull the girlfriend from the car.
Kelly is on administrative leave, per customary procedure, but he hasn't been interviewed.
However, the girlfriend, who suffered minor injuries and bruising from the incident, has been interviewed. She told law enforcement Williams was heading toward Interstate 90 and told her he wanted to drive into oncoming traffic to kill both of them.
"She thought he was going to kill her," Newell said. "She felt the police saved her life."
Newell said the man wasn't armed with a firearm.
Williams had a previous conviction of criminal possession of dangerous drugs for which he was sentenced in August 2014. He was on probation at the time of the shooting.
Following the shooting, Williams' body was left on the icy ramp until a civilian coroner from Sanders County arrived shortly after 10 a.m.
Newell said a medical unit was on standby and pronounced him dead immediately after the shooting. It's customary to have a civilian coroner investigate law enforcement shootings.
The coroner, Kathy Harris, asked that they preserve the crime scene until she arrived. Williams' body was taken to the Montana State Crime Lab. Newell said he hopes to wrap up the investigation in the next several weeks.
The fatal shooting was one of two officer-involved shootings in Missoula County within a 24-hour period, both after women reported domestic assaults.
The second shooting involved a Missoula County sheriff's deputy Wednesday night, after dispatchers received a call came from a residence in Evaro around 11 p.m.
After another chase, the suspect drove toward the officer and he fired twice into the vehicle, wounding the man.
That suspect is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries in a Missoula hospital, police said.