Billings police officers killed Coleman Stump in October. The death, and others in Billings, have led to calls for outside investigations of the department's use of deadly force and other policy changes.
BOX ELDER — Wearing shirts with Coleman Stump’s picture and carrying banners and signs, dozens of people gathered on a warm, windy Saturday afternoon for a short march to call for changes to police department practices after Billings police killed the Chippewa Cree man in October.
The 50 or so people who gathered Dec. 19 to march about a half-mile down the road to a school and back used the event to remember Coleman Stump as a father and sibling. They also hoped to illustrate what they described as larger problems within the Billings department regarding the frequency of police shootings and the department’s protocols for investigating those incidents.
“Let’s get some transparency in these departments,” said one of Stump’s sisters, Tasheena Duran, during Saturday’s event. “Let’s get something done.”
Billings Police Department officers shot and killed Stump, of Box Elder, on the night of Oct. 12 after responding to a call about suspicious activity.
Family members and friends on Saturday continued those calls, saying they hope Stump’s death will draw attention to the department and lead to changes that could increase confidence among victims’ families that such incidents will be properly investigated. For example, the department could implement a policy requiring that investigations of officers who use deadly force be conducted by an outside agency, said Vina Stump, Tasheena Duran and Coleman Stump’s mother.
Montana doesn’t require investigations by outside agencies for on-duty shooting, and Billings, alone among police departments in Montana’s seven largest cities, doesn’t have a policy mandating an outside investigation. The Billings department does forward its internal investigation findings to the Montana Department of Justice for review, and it has occasionally requested that outside agencies like the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office conduct investigations of deadly force incidents.
The day after the shooting, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said four officers had responded to a call reporting suspicious activity on the night of Oct. 12, and that the officers attempted to detain and question three people, including Stump. St. John said Stump refused to cooperate with officers and “a physical altercation took place,” which led to the officers’ unsuccessful attempt to subdue Stump with a stun gun. St. John said two officers shot at Stump after he pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at them, hitting him an unspecified number of times. Stump died of his wounds after being taken to a hospital, St. John said.
Chris covers Native American issues as a Report for America Corps member based in Billings. He also monitors the Montana Supreme Court, federal courts and criminal justice issues. Before joining MTFP in 2020, Chris most recently covered tribal affairs and Wyoming's Wind River Reservation for the Casper Star-Tribune, and has also reported for the Wisconsin State Journal. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 4, and follow @cjaadland on Twitter.