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Billings woman was three seconds from confronting standoff suspect

“I believe that the sound of that helicopter saved my life”
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Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 13:08:25-04

BILLINGS - Kim Vopel, a resident near the house where Friday's standoff suspect barricaded himself in the attic, said she was three seconds away from making contact with him.

Vopel said that she was in her home Friday when she heard a helicopter hovering over.

“It sounded like the helicopter was going to land on my house,” said Vopel.

She said she decided to look out of her back window to see what was going on and noticed that the helicopter was not moving. That indicated to Vopel that the police in the helicopter were looking for someone, and that person was in the neighborhood.

“I thought that I better lock my doors. Both of my doors were unlocked at the time so I locked the front door and I locked the back door,” said Vopel.

Vopel said that after she locked her back door, she heard banging and noticed that her dog was barking, but she didn’t see anyone.

Vopel then ran to her master bedroom and locked herself inside the bathroom.

“I called 9-1-1 and then I was opening the window so if I had to jump out of the window, I would have that ready. I was just trying to think as clear as I could,” she said.

Vopel said that when she opened the blinds to the bathroom, she saw police surrounding the home where the suspect had barricaded himself inside.

“There were police officers with their guns straight out all over, looking for someone,” said Vopel.

At the time this was happening, Vopel was the only occupant of her home.

Vopel said that the incident became scarier in the days to come, when she watched her surveillance video recordings.

“I was downstairs re-watching the video, realizing that literally, (there was) probably a three-second or two-second difference from when I locked the door, to when his hand was on the door,” said Vopel.

She said that she could see her reflection in the door window as she locked it, just seconds before the suspect tried to enter her residence.

“I’m so grateful that I heard the helicopter because had I not, both my doors (would have been) open. It could have been a lot different for me,” said Vopel.

Vopel said that as the night progressed she did not leave the house.

From the window of her home she saw police breach the door of the home and deploy chemical irritants in an attempt to get the suspect.

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Billings resident almost came in contact with standoff suspect

Vopel said that she wants to thank law enforcement who kept the neighborhood safe from the suspect as well as the occupants of the helicopter that hovered over her home.

“I believe that the sound of that helicopter saved my life,” said Vopel.

RELATED: Law enforcement details deadly 9-hour standoff in Billings