28-year old Kevin Anthony Briggs, a senior in chemical engineering at MSU, escaped from the Law and Justice Center on Saturday. He was arrested at 5:40 a.m. that morning after the police received a report at 5:16 a.m. of an alleged rape in which he tried to stab and strangle a drugged woman before getting away.
During an officer shift change, Briggs was left alone in an unlocked interview room for 10 minutes and he walked out of the unlocked Law and Justice Center’s lobby. At the time of the escape, Briggs wore a body belt with his hands cuffed in front and ankles shackled. K-9 units tracked him to 7th Avenue and Babcock where they lost his trail.
As a registered sex offender, Briggs has a history of assault and escape. In 2003, as a 16-year old, the Helena native was arrested for detaining and raping a 14-year old girl at his apartment. Because of the nature of the crime, Briggs was tried in adult court, but his case was then transferred to youth court.
While under house arrest awaiting his appearance in youth court, Briggs disabled his electronic tracker and disappeared for a week. Helena authorities discovered Briggs in a senior living center’s closet after responding to the screams of a girl — the same girl Briggs had raped. Briggs then led the police on a chase, shimmying down a drain pipe and running through alleys before being captured a few blocks away.
In 2004, at the age of 17, Briggs was convicted as a felon in the Lewis and Clark County youth court for sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated kidnapping, escape and unrelated burglary. He was sent to the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility and then transferred to the Montana State Prison after turning 18. In 2006, Briggs was also convicted for a 2004 attempt to escape from prison. He was released from the Montana State Prison on Jan. 15, 2008. Before Saturday’s events, Briggs was label as a Level 1 sex offender meaning there was low risk of a repeat offense.
Along with his criminal record, Briggs has another history. He enrolled at MSU Billings in Fall 2009 and there succeeded academically, graduating in April 2011 with an Associates of Science in General Studies and high honors. He then began studying chemical engineering at MSU Bozeman, making the Dean’s list in Fall 2011.
Fellow classmate and senior in chemical engineering, Robert Wight, recalled Briggs as always showing up to class in a bicycle helmet and asking “fairly obvious” questions. “He definitely didn’t seem dangerous. I do remember feeling bad for him; he seemed to not really have any friends in our classes, at least,” said Wight, adding that, “He hasn’t really been in any of my classes since sophomore year.”
Since Briggs’ escape, University Police have put MSU on high-alert: opening the emergency operations center, sending both text-message and email warnings, hanging wanted posters, reviewing dorm video footage and increasing patrol in and around campus. All the dorms have been placed on 24-hour lockdown, and the Vice-President for Student Success Robert Marley sent out an email on student safety.
Briggs is still at-large and is considered dangerous and possibly armed. If seen, do not approach but immediately call 911. Briggs is 5 feet 6 inches tall with a medium build, blue eyes, and a pierced ear. He was last seen wearing a gray or black striped coat with stripes and green pants.
The Bozeman Police Department is coordinating with the FBI, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, and University Police on the investigation, both locally and across the state. “It’s our agency’s top priority; all of my detectives are working on it,” said BPD Captain Steve Crawford.