Billings, MT – An armed burglary suspect allegedly stole five vehicles, managed to create 10 crime scenes, and exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers during an hour-long pursuit on Monday.
The incident began at approximately 10:12 p.m., when Billings police officers were dispatched to a burglary alarm at Performance Auto, the Billings Gazette reported.
They discovered that the two suspects, later identified as Ryan McElmury, 41, and Jason Ebarb, 42, had shattered a window and were still inside the building.
When officers confronted the burglars, Ebarb surrendered and was arrested.
McElmury ignored the officers’ commands, and fled the building, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said during a Tuesday press conference.
Officers lost sight of him as he ran between businesses, and radioed for additional units to respond.
He shot out the window of another building, then took off in Ford pickup that had been left with the keys inside, barreling through a fence.
As McElmury pulled out onto Simpson street, Billings Police Officer Nathan Contreraz pulled in behind him, Chief St. John explained.
The suspect immediately whipped the pickup around in a U-turn, “accelerated, and headed directly for Contreraz,” the chief said.
“Fearing he was going to be rammed,” Officer Contreraz, a three-year veteran of the department, opened fire on the suspect, who then sped past him, the chief explained.
“The investigation has not yet determined Contreraz’s position, i.e. in the car or out of it, or if McElmury fired shots on the way by,” Chief St. John said.
Officer Contreraz’s patrol car window was shattered by bullets, and other rounds struck nearby occupied homes.
McElmury sped off onto King Avenue West, firing his weapon along the way, police said.
He also drove through a business parking lot, damaging property as he sped through.
He crashed through another fence, and continued driving the vehicle despite having flat tires.
McElmury eventually pulled up at a group home, and forced his way inside.
“He confronts a female, sticking a gun in her face, and demanding car keys,” Chief St. John explained.
The woman told him that her vehicle was in the garage, and that the keys were inside.
As officers began to converge on the area, McElmury fled towards the back of the group home, hopped a fence, and headed towards a nearby residence.
“Here, he smashes out the front picture window, and enters,” the chief said. “He points a gun at the homeowner’s face, and demands keys.”
McElmury stole the homeowner’s Chevrolet Avalanche, smashed it through the garage door, and crashed into a pickup truck parked nearby.
“He then flees the area through fields and side streets,” Chief St. John explained.
As he barreled out towards Rimrock Road, officers spotted him and resumed their pursuit.
McElmury drove the vehicle into oncoming traffic, and refused to stop even after he drove over two spike strips, Chief St. John said.
He then drove the Avalanche “head-on" towards motorists in two different vehicles, and was able to get one of the drivers to stop.
“He gets out of the Avalanche and into the passenger side of the stopped car and forced that driver out at gunpoint," Chief St. John said. "That was a Chevy Suburban.”
Officers continued their pursuit as McElmury headed onto the interstate. He drove over another set of spike strips before he took an off-ramp and pulled into a Town Pump gas station.
There, he attempted to steal another car at gunpoint, but wasn’t able to get the vehicle started.
He then carjacked a woman at gunpoint as she was pumping fuel into her Nissan Pathfinder, and took off again back towards Billings.
Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers joined in the pursuit, which proceeded north out of town towards Roundup.
Eight miles outside of Billings, McElmury attempted to turn onto a side road at a high rate of speed, and rolled the Pathfinder.
He jumped out and ran “several hundred yards across a field” to a nearby trailer home, where he stole yet another car, Chief St. John said.
“He took that vehicle, drove it through a shed wall, and drove directly at the officers,” the chief said.
Three officers opened fire, at which point McElmury finally surrendered and was taken into custody.
Investigators later discovered that McElmury had lost his semiautomatic handgun when he rolled the Pathfinder, and they recovered the weapon.
He was in possession of two magazines and ammunition at the time of his arrest.
“No officers were injured, and it appears that McElmury had some minor injuries to his head and hand," the chief noted. "It is unknown when those took place.”
He was treated for his injuries before officers transported him to the Yellowstone County Detention Center.
“During this 50 minutes of carnage, there are 10 crime scenes, five stolen vehicles – three at gunpoint – and numerous victims,” the chief noted. “It is beyond belief that no one was hurt or killed during this incident – to include McElmury.”
Six patrol vehicles sustained “various amounts of damage” due to the incident, he said.
McElmury was charged with burglary, and additional charges are expected.
Ebarb was also charged for his role in the initial burglary, KULR reported.
According to Chief St. John, McElmury has an “extensive drug history” out of Wyoming.
Two Billings police officers, one Montana Highway Patrol trooper and one Yellowstone County deputy have been placed on paid administrative leave, as per protocol, the Billings Gazette reported.