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Montana school lockdowns lifted, but suspect at large

The University of Montana and other schools have lifted lockdowns prompted by the armed robbery of two Missoula businesses Thursday morning, but the suspect remains at large, police said.

Detective Sgt. Travis Welsh says a man with a handgun robbed the Motel 6 and the Taco Bell restaurant on East Broadway around 9 a.m. The 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 says 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 Motel 6 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, a teal bandanna, sunglasses, and bags over shoes, and he brandished 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 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 Missoula on Saturday night, hours after his escape. Police spokesman Travis Welsh tells 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 classes would resume Thursday afternoon, but reminded students to remain alert. The men's basketball game against Portland State was to be played at 7 p.m. as scheduled.

Meanwhile in Bozeman, prosecutors filed several felony charges against Briggs, and a $500,000 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.

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