MISSOULA, Mont. – The University of Montana and other schools lifted lockdowns Thursday prompted by the armed robbery of two Missoula businesses, but the suspect remained at large, police said.
The Motel 6 and the Taco Bell restaurant on East Broadway were robbed at gunpoint around 9 a.m., Detective Sgt. Travis Welsh said. The university campus was put on lockdown at about 10:20 a.m., shortly after a man carrying a gun and a plastic bag was seen running along Arthur Avenue near the university.
UM spokeswoman Peggy Kuhr said city and UM campus police believe the robbery suspect matches the description of Kevin Briggs, a suspect in a Bozeman attempted rape who escaped from the police station there on Feb. 1.
Briggs, 28, is described as being 5 feet, 5 inches tall with a medium build. UM and Missoula police issued an alert on Wednesday saying Bozeman police learned Briggs might be heading for Missoula because he had connections there.
A witness at the motel described the robbery suspect as a white male about 5 feet, 5 inches tall with brown hair. He was wearing a red Hellgate High School letterman jacket with the name “Jennifer” on it, as well as a teal bandanna and sunglasses, and bags over shoes. He also had a semi-automatic pistol.
A witness at Taco Bell described the suspect as a white man wearing a blue hoodie, with black sunglasses, jeans, dark shoes and light socks. He had a white bandanna over his face with black gloves and brandished a black semi-automatic pistol.
Police were not sure if they were dealing with two suspects or if the suspect changed clothes.
Missoula police confirmed Briggs had been in their city Saturday night, hours after his escape. Police spokesman Travis Welsh told KECI-TV that Briggs asked an acquaintance if he could stay with him in town, but the friend said no.
The university lifted its lockdown shortly before 1 p.m., saying there was no indication the suspect was still in the area. Missoula Public Schools also lifted its lockdowns and said students would be dismissed at their regular times.
UM officials said Thursday afternoon that classes were resuming, but they reminded students to remain alert. The men’s basketball game against Portland State was played as scheduled, with Montana winning 82-76.
Meanwhile in Bozeman, prosecutors filed several felony charges against Briggs, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. His former girlfriend reported he tried to rape her, and choked and strangled her. He faces charges of aggravated assault, attempted sexual intercourse without consent, escape and assault on a peace offer.
Briggs is a registered sex offender who is on probation. He was convicted of kidnapping and raping his 14-year-old former girlfriend in Helena in early 2003.