Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has identified the officer involved in a fatal shooting Monday as the same officer who shot and killed a man in February 2013.
St. John on Thursday identified the officer as Grant Morrison, 30. Morrison has been with the police department for five years.
On Monday, Morrison shot and killed Richard Ramirez, 38, after the man failed to comply with multiple commands and made a “downward-reaching movement” while seated in the back of a stopped car, according to police.
Ramirez died of his injuries after being taken to Billings Clinic. It was later determined he was unarmed.
As is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, Morrison is on paid administrative leave.
“He’s doing well. Obviously, he’s upset about it,” St. John said Thursday. “It’s a life-changing event. He is going through something that probably the great majority of officers in this department, let alone the country, are not going to go through once, let alone twice.”
Morrison also shot and killed 32-year-old Jason James Shaw on Feb. 11, 2013, during a confrontation at a car outside a suspected drug house. A coroner's inquest Aug. 14, 2013, ruled the shooting justifiable. Shaw, who was seated in a car, had refused Morrison’s commands and reached for a BB gun in his pocket after being stunned with a stun gun, according to testimony at the inquest.
Billings Police Lt. Kevin Iffland confirmed Thursday that no one with the last name Ramirez was in the vehicle involved in that shooting incident.
The Ramirez family has publicly criticized the shooting as unjust. St. John said Thursday no formal complaints have been made against Morrison or the department.
Morrison’s second fatal shooting
Ramirez, who has a history of felony drug possession, had been identified as a suspect in a robbery Morrison responded to Sunday. The victim of the robbery had been shot in the arm and identified Ramirez as the shooter, police said.
At about 11 p.m. Monday, Morrison was on patrol and spotted a red car with four passengers, one of whom he identified as Ramirez. He followed the car, which pulled into an alley in the area of Fifth Avenue South and State Avenue.
There, before backup arrived, Morrison approached the four people in the car and fired three shots, hitting Ramirez, in the torso, according to the chief.
The shooting of Ramirez was captured by the dashboard-mounted camera on Morrison’s car. The footage has not been released because it is evidence in the investigation of the shooting, St. John said.
“We have presented everything we possibly can at this point,” the chief said. “We don’t have any results or information back from the autopsy, we don’t have any results or information back from any evidence that was seized in the car and sent off for processing.”
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In the seconds leading up to the shooting, Ramirez raised and lowered his hands six times while Morrison was ordering the people in the car to keep their hands where they could be seen, according to the chief. The final time, Ramirez moved his hands and reached down. At that point, Morrison fired his weapon.
St. John said Thursday additional officers arrived within seconds of the last shot being fired.
On Thursday, St. John reaffirmed that Morrison acted appropriately. The chief declined to speculate whether Morrison should have waited for backup before approaching the vehicle.
The shooting is being investigated within the department and by the County Attorney’s Office. As required by law, an inquest conducted by a coroner and a seven-person jury will determine if the shooting was justified.
Morrison will not return to work until has been evaluated by a mental health professional, the chief said.
Morrison's name had been withheld in connection to this most recent shooting because of threats against law enforcement that were posted on social media. St. John described the threats as very general but concerning.
Family reacts; 1 brother still at large
Family members of Ramirez said Thursday that they want criminal charges brought against Morrison and accused him of targeting the unemployed single father.
Ramirez's sister, Lori, said Morrison knew her brother and other members of the family from prior encounters. She said her brother's criminal history, including several arrests for drugs, had been wrongly used by authorities to rationalize Morrison's actions.
"He was itching to get my brother," she said. "Richard didn't have to die. He liked to get high every now and then, but he was a good person."
Lori Ramirez and other family members said they also knew Shaw — the man killed by Morrison last year.
Richard Ramirez's younger brother, Jason Ramirez, was arrested in Lockwood on Wednesday night on an outstanding warrant.
Concern over Jason Ramirez's whereabouts was one of the reasons cited by authorities to withhold Morrison's name until Thursday.
Jason Ramirez had been wanted since Jan. 21 for failing to register as a violent offender and other charges.
Another brother, Daniel Ramirez, has been wanted since Feb. 4 for possession of dangerous drugs and burglary. He remains at large.