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Community questions delayed police information on Billings shooting

First high-profile crime since scanner encryption
BPD coroner
Posted at 8:20 AM, Nov 29, 2022

BILLINGS — The Billings Police Department's decision to encrypt their scanner communication on Nov. 15 is facing its first test, after a late night shooting killed one man and injured another on the city's South Side.

The shooting happened at 11:19 p.m. Sunday, according to information in a Billings police tweet that was sent at 2:49 a.m., three and a half hours after the incident.

The dead man has been identified as 26-year-old Randall James, Jr., according to his family, who was on scene early Monday.

"I'm waiting for them to pick him up so I can put these in his hands," said Stacy Limberhand, showing a bushel of sage.

Limberhand, James’ aunt, brought the sage to the scene to perform a traditional indigenous ritual.

"It's not in our belief that he should be laying here this long," she said, "but I understand they have to do their job."

Randall James Jr.
26-year-old Randall James, Jr. was identified as the man killed in a Billings Southside shooting Sunday, Nov. 27.

The body was eventually moved around noon Monday. The wait is part of a larger question about timely information from police. The single tweet is the only information Billings police have released to the public, nearly 24 hours after the shooting as of publication. It's left many people who heard the shots wondering what had happened, and some made posts in popular Facebook neighborhood watch groups.

Police said they were not concerned about the length of time it took, because Sgt. Bethany Schwartz was the only sergeant securing a large, evolving scene. At least one resident didn’t mind the police approach.

"As someone who was around it, I’m glad it was more delayed so people weren’t coming over here to see what was going on," said one local neighbor.

The neighbor didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal from individuals involved in the shooting. That’s one reason Billings police gave for its encryption decision.

"I think the less attention to it, the better," the resident said.

Southside shooting
Billings police officers talk at a secondary scene after a deadly shooting on the city's Southside on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Police have said they don’t believe there is any threat to the public, but confirmed that there were more than two people involved and that no arrests have been made. The commander on scene said they likely won’t release any information until at least Tuesday, so there’s still plenty unknown - for neighbors and James’ family.

"It's horrible," Limberhand said. "This is devastating."