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Billings man killed by police officers identified

OIS Pursuit Billings
Posted at 6:10 PM, May 24, 2022

BILLINGS — A 35-year-old Billings man was killed by police late Monday night after leading multiple law enforcement officers on a 17-minute high-speed chase from Billings' South Side to the West End, ending in a standoff near the Fireside Lanes Bowling Alley.

Curtis Yellowtail, a 35-year-old Billings and Hardin resident, was pronounced dead at the scene after five Billings Police Department officers and a Montana Highway Patrol trooper opened fire when Yellowtail pointed a gun at one of the officers, according to Billings Police Chief Rich St. John at a Tuesday morning press conference.

A family member confirmed his identity to Q2 News Tuesday afternoon.

Curtis Yellowtail
Curtis Yellowtail was killed by police after leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase through Billings on May 23, 2022.

The chase began at a Holiday Gas Station on the corner of King Avenue East and South Billings Boulevard. A security guard at the nearby Ledgestone Hotel said a man came up to him and told him a woman had been pistol-whipped and was being held against her will inside a red Nissan sedan at the Holiday station. The security guard then called 911.

When police approached the car, they observed four occupants, including Yellowtail, in the driver's side. He quickly pulled out of the station going south on South Billings Boulevard, made a U-Turn in the intersection and sped away going north.

OIS Pursuit map
Billings police say this is the route of Monday night's high-speed pursuit that ended in officers shooting and killing Curtis Yellowtail.

Yellowtail drove north under the overpass onto Sixth Avenue and up to Grand Avenue. He then turned west and drove to Shiloh Road before turning south at the roundabout down to Monad Road.

"Twice during that route we attempted to deploy stop sticks and were unsuccessful," St. John said.

St. John said the pursuit reached speeds up to 70 miles per hour and that officers saw Yellowtail waving a gun out the window multiple times. He turned east on Monad and eventually pulled into the Ponderosa Acres apartment complex near Industrial Avenue where friends say members of Yellowtail’s family live.

Yellowtail eventually ended up high-centered on a wall separating Fireside Lanes to the east and another building, surrounded by police.

“Officers ordered the suspect to drop the gun and get out of the car," St. John said. "However, he refused to comply and a five-minute standoff occurred.”

St. John said the three other people in the car could not get out. After five minutes, Yellowtail did get out, holding the gun to his head and moving toward officers.

“At this point, officers attempted a less lethal option and fired three bean bag rounds, striking the suspect," St. John said. "The suspect spun clockwise and pointed the gun at officers in the west parking lot. Simultaneously, five Billings police officers and one Montana Highway Patrol trooper fired multiple rounds at the suspect. He was hit and collapsed.”

Yellowtail gun
Police said they found this gun on the ground near Curtis Yellowtail after he was shot and killed by police on May 23, 2022.

Police said none of the other passengers were hurt in the shooting. All of the Billings police officers’ body cams were activated, according to St. John, and are currently being reviewed. Montana Highway Patrol troopers do not wear body cameras.

St. John said Yellowtail was known to officers since at least 2006. A records search shows he was convicted on felony counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and bail jumping.