A Billings police officer who was found to have committed justifiable homicide in two fatal shootings in two years is now the subject of an internal investigation by the Billings Police Department.
Police Chief Rich St. John said Officer Grant Morrison is being investigated after an anonymous complainant said Morrison has routinely been violating city codes in Laurel, where he lives with his family.
Laurel Police Sgt. Mark Guy confirmed Monday that Morrison, who lives barely a block from the police station near downtown Laurel, has been issued nine citations since March 2010. All the citations were for violations of Laurel’s animal-control laws and three of them were issued for keeping pigs, which are prohibited in the city.
St. John said Kevin Iffland, the BPD’s captain of professional standards, is investigating to see whether Morrison violated the department’s policy manual regarding off-duty conduct.
The complainant accused the department of trying to sweep Morrison’s conduct under the rug, but St. John said he didn’t know anything about the allegations until receiving the anonymous letter in early June.
He said Iffland “is closer to being done than he’s not. Give us a week or so.”
“If we have violations, we’ll handle it accordingly,” he said. The department’s progressive discipline calls for anything from a verbal reprimand to termination, depending on the violation, St. John said.
The BPD policy manual says officers are to obey federal and state laws and “all municipal laws and ordinances.” In another section of the policy, under the heading of “private life,” officers are required to “behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to their agencies or themselves. A police officer’s character and conduct while off duty must always be exemplary” and his or her “personal behavior must be beyond reproach.”
The letter writer mentioned only one citation being issued to Morrison, and St. John said he didn’t know of multiple citations until hearing about them from Last Best News.
“That’s bothersome to me,” he said. “If that’s the case and he’s doing that in another jurisdiction, you think they (the Laurel police) would drop us a phone call.”
Sgt. Guy said nine complaints had been lodged about violations of animal ordinances on Morrison’s property and Laurel police officers or the animal-control officer responded to each one. Citations were not written every time, he said, but a total of nine citations were issued—two for no dog tags, two for nuisance dogs, two for leash-law violations and three for keeping prohibited animals.
Sometimes officers will issue a warning ticket, Guy said, or if an at-large dog is picked up by officers, it might be returned without any citations.
“We don’t issue tickets automatically,” he said. “We try to be as fair as we can possibly be.”
Georgette Boggio, an attorney in Billings who serves as the part-time prosecutor in Laurel City Court, said she could find only one case involving Morrison in City Court files.
In that case, Morrison was issued three citations on Nov. 19, 2014, each for “Keeping certain animals prohibited (swine).” The ticket containing the three citations said there were “3 pigs running loose,” and that Morrison had been issued a warning on Oct. 31.
Morrison later pleaded guilty and was fined $300 per violation, with $250 suspended on each count. The sentencing order said Morrison, during the period of the suspended sentence, “shall not engage in any criminal conduct in violation of City Ordinance, State or Federal law” within 180 days.
The anonymous letter writer said he or she last saw a pig—described as having “a pinkish color with large darker spots”—inside Morrison’s house on May 27. The complainant also said the “latest call to Laurel police about the pig” was made on May 27.
Guy, however, said his records showed that the last time anyone lodged a complaint about Morrison’s animals was on Jan. 5. That would have been in the period of the suspended sentence, but Guy was subsequently unavailable to clarify whether a citation was issued in regard to that complaint.
The letter writer said Morrison was known to have “an ongoing problem with up to 12 dogs being on the property along with 3 pig (sic) and a cat.”
St. John sent Morrison an email asking him to call Last Best News if he wanted to comment for this story, but Morrison did not respond.
Morrison started working as a reserve officer with the Laurel Police Department in 2008 and signed on with the BPD in March 2009. After the most recent inquest, Morrison returned to patrol duties briefly before being assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration prescription drug diversion task force that is based in Billings.
In February 2013, Morrison shot and killed Jason James Shaw, and in August of that year a coroner’s jury determined that the shooting was noncriminal, justifiable homicide. According to testimony at the inquest, Shaw ignored Morrison’s commands and reached for what turned out to be a BB gun replica of a Walther P99 handgun.
On April 14, 2014, during a traffic stop on the South Side, Morrison shot and killed Richard Ramirez, who was a backseat passenger in a car and who reportedly ignored commands to keep his hands up. He was later found to have been unarmed. In January, a coroner’s jury ruled that that shooting, too, was justifiable homicide.
Laurel city codes require all dogs to be licensed with the city. A clerk in the Laurel city clerk’s office said on Monday that no dogs are currently licensed under Morrison’s name.