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Mont. man shot by 6 officers at hospital had escalating legal problems

Officers were trying to arrest man for violating the terms of his release on a burglary charge when he ran away, tripped and a shot fired from his gun

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — A man shot and killed by federal and local law enforcement officers outside a Montana hospital had escalating legal problems during the months before his death, including breaking into his former wife’s house, court records said.

Family members have disputed the depiction of John Barry Marshall, 48, as a criminal and his sister Valery O’Connell said Tuesday that she believes he was unarmed when he was killed. She was not at the scene of the shooting.

Authorities said in response that they recovered a gun believed to be Marshall’s from the scene.

Officers were trying to arrest Marshall for violating the terms of his release on the burglary charge when he ran away, tripped and a shot fired from his gun into the window of the Billings Clinic hospital Friday, authorities said.

The officers weren’t sure if that shot was intentional, but when an officer approached Marshall, he saw the suspect trying to dislodge a jammed round, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has said.

Three city police officers, two deputy U.S. marshals and a Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy then fired multiple shots at Marshall.

Marshall’s sister said she had talked to several witnesses who claimed he was unarmed.

“I don’t think that three words — ‘I felt threatened’ — are good enough to use deadly force from any police officer,” said O’Connell, of Emigrant.

Chris Evans said Marshall had been visiting Evans’ daughter at the hospital that day. He says Marshall was shot as he fell and that he didn’t see a gun.

John Barnes , a spokesman for the Montana Department of Justice, which is overseeing the investigation into the shooting, told The Associated Press that authorities believe the gun recovered at the scene was in Marshall’s possession at the time.

Barnes said all relevant witnesses have been or are in the process of being interviewed as part of the investigation.

Marshall had numerous run-ins with the law dating to Oct. 9, when he was cited for obstructing a peace officer after fleeing and giving a fake name to police asking about a loaded gun a neighbor found outside his apartment building, The Billings Gazette reported.

A month later, Marshall was accused of breaking into his ex-wife’s house, disabling the garage door and using a refrigerator to barricade a side door. She found a partially smoked cigarette, an open beer in the kitchen, and two live 9mm rounds near a door, court records said.

The woman obtained a restraining order in December that noted he carried a gun.

Marshall appeared in court on burglary and drug charges Jan. 9 and was released three days later after posting $10,000 bond. Conditions included wearing a GPS monitor and staying away from alcohol.

An arrest warrant was issued Jan. 16 after Marshall removed his GPS monitor and went to a bar. Officers say he led them on a high-speed chase Jan. 23, but they called it off when he went into a residential area.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service received a tip that Marshall was at Billings Clinic on Jan. 30. All six officers who opened fire are on paid administrative leave while the state Division of Criminal Investigation investigates the shooting.

One of Marshall’s sisters, Tanya Vito of Texas, told the Gazette that his divorce last February caused a downward spiral.

“He was an upstanding citizen, and he just fell apart this last year,” she said. “I’m glad nobody else was hurt (in the shooting), but he should not have lost his life. It was not right.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press