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Escaped Montana inmate shot and killed by deputy sheriff

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A convicted sex offender who escaped from a Montana prison was shot and killed on Friday by a deputy sheriff at a shopping center in Billings, police said.

Dean Jess, 42, was serving a 30-year sentence in the state penitentiary in Deer Lodge on an incest conviction when he fled in a maintenance truck on Monday, triggering a statewide manhunt, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.

Authorities in Billings responded to a tip that Jess was in the area and was thought to be driving a stolen Jeep. The vehicle was spotted in a parking lot outside a Walmart store on Friday afternoon, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said at a news conference.

Several deputies surrounded the Jeep and ordered him to turn off the ignition, Linder said. A deputy saw Jess reach for what the officer suspected was a gun and shot the fugitive dead, Linder told reporters.

"The deputy felt his life was in danger," he said.

The officer, whose name was withheld, has been placed on administrative leave.

Jess worked in motor vehicle maintenance at the prison, where he was not considered a problem inmate, officials with the Montana Department of Corrections said in a statement.

(Editing by Nick Carey and Lisa Shumaker)