BOZEMAN – Two Bozeman police officers failed to adequately perform their duties in leaving a suspect in a sexual assault case unsupervised long enough that he was able to escape from a police interview room, an internal investigation found.
The investigation by Capt. Dave McManus found the day shift officer in charge of monitoring Kevin Briggs, 28, early on Feb. 1 wrongly stopped watching him after overhearing a telephone conversation that he believed indicated Briggs was being taken to the jail.
McManus also found the acting day shift supervisor did not verify a civilian employee’s statement that Briggs was not being monitored — a statement made 10 minutes before Briggs walked out of the police station at 7:50 a.m. Officers didn’t notice Briggs was gone until nine minutes later.
Officer Lucas Chaffins and day shift supervisor Tracy Senenfelder were notified by Police Chief Ron Price on Feb. 27 that they were suspended for two weeks without pay, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Monday.
The report, released Monday morning, noted that Briggs twice tried to escape arresting officers and was being held in an unlocked interview room with leg shackles and his handcuffs attached to a leather belt. Shortly before 7 a.m., supervision of Briggs was turned over to Chaffins, McManus found.
Chaffins stopped watching Briggs at 7:19 a.m. after overhearing part of a conversation between the arresting officer and a detective that led him to believe Briggs was going to be taken to jail. Chaffins leaned a chair up against the door of the interview room, a method officers had used to create a noise if someone left the interview room, the report said.
Briggs was left unattended for 31 minutes. Video footage of the interview shows Briggs asking for an officer and checking the door handle of the interview room, before walking out. No officer heard the chair propped against the interview room door hit the floor.
Briggs was able to get a ride to Missoula where he bought a bus ticket to Spokane, Wash., and was believed to have left Missoula on Feb. 2. The FBI issued a $10,000 reward for Briggs’ arrest and reported he had been spotted in California before he was arrested on Feb. 21 in Portland, Ore. He has waived extradition, but he was not listed on the Gallatin County jail roster on Monday.
Briggs is charged with attempted sexual intercourse without consent and aggravated assault after his former girlfriend reported he tried to rape her and strangled her until she nearly passed out. He also is charged with assault on a peace officer and escape.
McManus’ report said police should have a department wide discussion about the events leading to Briggs’ escape, how it impacted the victim and the community and the expectations of insuring the security of people who are in custody.
He said the department needs to come up with a better way to signal when someone leaves the interview room besides leaning a chair up against the door, such as using a lock or alarm that would be compliant with fire codes.
Briggs has to register as a sex offender after being convicted of raping his former girlfriend in Helena in 2003 when he was 16 and she was 14.
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