BILLINGS — A man today admitted to illegally possessing firearms after two guns used in a casino robbery were recovered from an elementary school playground, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Darwin Dalton Sutherland, 29, a transient, pleaded guilty to prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Sutherland faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Judge Watters set sentencing for March 16, 2023. Sutherland was detained pending further proceedings.
The government alleged in court documents that on March 20, Makayla Fetter and Taliah Ramirez robbed the Magic Diamond Casino in the Billings Heights at gunpoint, attempted to flee law enforcement and crashed their car into a fence at Ponderosa Elementary School. Fetter was arrested while Ramirez initially got away. Both of the firearms used in the robbery had been ditched before officers arrived. Officers recovered one of the firearms that night on the school’s playground. The next day, an elementary school student found the second firearm and took it to a teacher.
The government further alleged that officers eventually questioned Fetter and Ramirez, who stated that they had received the firearms from Sutherland. An investigation found that both firearms had been reported stolen as part of 12 firearms stolen in a residential burglary in Billings on March 17. When questioned by law enforcement, Sutherland admitted to possessing all 12 stolen firearms and to knowing they were stolen but claimed that he didn’t burglarize the residence. He also admitted to giving the guns to Fetter and Ramirez. Sutherland is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a felony conviction for burglary in Cascade County. Fetter and Ramirez are pending sentencing after pleading guilty to robbery affecting commerce and firearms crimes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.