BILLINGS, Montana — Two former Yellowstone County sheriff's deputies were justified in shooting and killing a man as he drove toward them in a stolen vehicle, a law enforcement review board found.
The sheriff's office has said Christopher Rudolph and Jason Robinson shot 28-year-old Loren Simpson south of Huntley on Jan. 8.
The review board told Sheriff Mike Linder it found there was an actual or perceived threat to Robinson's safety and that deadly force was necessary to prevent his death or serious injury, The Billings Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1My7otJ ).
The board determined the deputies couldn't have effectively used so-called stop sticks on the vehicle and "responded in a tactically sound manner." The board praised the deputies' sound judgment.
Simpson's family "vehemently disagrees" with the findings, said their attorney, Nathan Wagner.
The sheriff's department's use-of-force policy authorizes deputies to shoot at a moving vehicle "if necessary to do so to protect against an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to the deputies or others."
On the day of the shooting, the deputies were investigating several suspected robberies involving a purple Ford Explorer that Simpson was driving when he was shot, court records said.
Officers were dispatched at about 4:35 p.m. to a burglary report outside Huntley, but when they saw the purple SUV, they followed it. The SUV turned onto a dead-end road, but later turned around and drove back toward the officers.
The review board found the officers' vehicles did not constitute a road block. The board said Simpson was "bearing down" on the officers when they warned him to stop and then fired at him, one with an AR-15 and another with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Both deputies resigned in February without giving a reason. The county granted Robinson's request to be returned to a previous position at the jail.
A coroner's inquest will still be held.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com
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