The South Dakota Attorney General's Office is investigating a fatal shooting in Box Elder Wednesday, the state’s first shooting this year involving an on-duty law enforcement officer.
The shooting happened around 1:30 a.m. in a mobile home at 240 North Ellsworth Road, after Box Elder police responded to a call for service, the Attorney General's Office said in a release.
"The situation escalated resulting in an officer firing his duty weapon" at a 44-year-old man, who died at the scene, according to the release. Authorities are withholding the man's name until his family has been notified.
On Wednesday morning, yellow caution tape encircled the mobile home as personnel from the Box Elder Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff's Office and state Division of Criminal Investigation moved about.
Box Elder Police Chief Jason Dubbs said the call for service came in to 911 dispatch as a disturbance report, and three officers responded. Dubbs said he was not aware of prior issues at the residence.
Box Elder police have not been involved in a shooting in "at least 20 years, and maybe never," Dubbs said.
The Division of Criminal Investigation, tasked with investigating officer-involved shootings, is expected to release its findings within 30 days. It will include whether Attorney General Marty Jackley, whose office oversees the Division, has found the police officer's use of deadly force as justified.
Dubbs declined to reveal the officer’s name, but said he has been placed on administrative paid leave as part of investigation protocol. The Pennington and Meade county sheriff's offices are assisting in the investigation.
The incident is the first shooting in the state this year involving a law enforcement officer, said Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Sara Rabern.
Since the office began investigating such shootings in 2001, there have been 44 officer-involved shootings in South Dakota, according to its database. All the shootings have been ruled as justified. The incidents resulted in 26 deaths, including those of two Rapid City police officers who were fatally wounded in a 2011 shootout.
When Justin Speck posted the cast list for A Royal Family, Emily Washington said she had expected her role to be a maid.
"You wouldn't expect the one minority character to be something other than the servant role," said Washington, backstage before the final rehearsal of Central High School's production of the 1920s satire of a famous acting family in their Manhattan townhouse.
"Of course, I knew I wasn't going to be part of the family."
Washington, a senior, has a black father and Native American mother. She was raised until kindergarten on the south side of Chicago before moving to Rapid City.
"It was a cultural shock, for sure," she said, "even at that age."
Now, as a senior finishing up her high school drama career, Washington said she has come to expect "certain roles." Last fall — a role she loved, by the way — Washington played Tituba, the slave from Barbados, in Central's performance of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. For this play, about the wealthy Cavendish family running circles around its tony enclaves, Washington said she figured she'd play a "maid or hall-boy."
When Speck, the high school director, posted the list, however, there was her name, next to the role of the celebrated Cavendish family's agent. Usually, this role goes to an older, white male by the title "Oscar Wolfe." But when Rapid City Central debuts the show tonight, Emily will walk on stage playing "Evelyn Wolfe." And she will play it as herself, a young, black woman.
"I keep thinking about the time," Washington said. "The 1920s and the premise of a black woman being a manager for this crazy family of famous actors. I think it's amazing."
Gender-bending and colorblind roles is nothing new in the broader theater world. Last spring, Speck took his Drama 4 students to a showing of the play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where the they saw A Royal Family performed by an entire cast of black actors. Speck, 14-year director and theatre teacher at Central, said even in his second year he had cast a Latino student in the role of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.
"He loved it, and his mom loved it," Speck said. "Dad was a little more, 'Eh, whatever, I'll support you because you're my son."
Later that season, Speck said he cast the same student as Thénardier in Les Mis.
"That role, of course is not written for a Latino to play, but I'm like, 'Why not, I mean, of course there are Spaniards in France during the revolution?"
But even Speck acknowledged that colorblind casting is rare in South Dakota schools. Some directors might not be willing to take changes. But often, many directors lack schools boasting Central's diversity.
"They sometimes don't have actors in their talent pool," he said.
According to the last census, South Dakota is 85 percent white. Rapid City schools, according to state department of education figures, enroll 7.6 percent Native American students and 1.2 percent black students. However, at Central High School in the city's core, around a quarter of kids are students of color.
Washington is both Lakota and Navajo, too. She was raised by her Native family, but people assume she's black because, well, "I look black." She said, about the casting decision, her classmates were, "as surprised as I was."
"Look at me," she said, in a long, flowering dress, just after makeup. A curl of her hair, a nod to the flapper mode, is in a curlicue over her eyes. "For Central, it is a moderately new thing, to get those roles that are traditionally white, traditionally male.
"But Justin and Joey have done a job to break that barrier."
Speck and Joey Lore, the technical director, co-chair of Central's English Department, have teamed up for the last 14 years as theatrical leaders at Central. With A Royal Family, in addition to swapping Washington's role, they also cut a minor character who read one line and fit an ethnic stereotype.
"In 1927 they (playwrights) thought they needed an East Indian character to carry luggage," said Speck, who holds a master's degree in directing from Roosevelt University in Chicago. "And I'm like, no, not in 21st Century America as I know it. Maybe in some other parts of the country they'd be OK with that. But not in our theater."
Over a decade ago, Speck helped put on a production in Rapid City of The Laramie Project, a play about the killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming man. He said he was, at one point, pulled into a school administrator's office to be accused by some angry parents of pushing an agenda. But last month, he said when the Black Hills Playhouse put on The Laramie Project, he held up his hand to signify how many complaints he heard.
"I can't help but think some of that is because of changing attitudes, but also because we were already here a decade ago," Speck said.
At Central High School, Washington has been a standout student: homecoming queen in the fall, the school's representative on the school board. While she feels Central is better — "by South Dakota standards" — than many schools on diversity and inclusion, in her 11th grade advanced placement English class, she wrote an essay on the N-word.
"It talked about what it's like to be a black woman in Central High School roaming these, these" — she pointed to the walls behind her — "white hallways."
In the era of Black Panther and Hidden Figures, when Hollywood and the entertainment industry continues to think more inclusively about representation, both Speck and Washington said it's an opportunity for many people to reconsider assumptions about entertainment.
"They (South Dakotans) are so used to default setting is 'white' and 'male,'" Washington said, "And it's interesting to see the nuances by what we're entertained by."
In the fall, Washington will attend Morningside College to study political science, and she believes her immersion in the theater program at Central has helped generate empathy for people of all backgrounds.
"I've played so many characters," Washington said, listing of A Royal Family, The Crucible, and a one-act play about the troubles in Ireland in the 1970s. "Coming from playing Tituba, a slave ... to do everything that she has to do in that situation there to being an Irish college student who just saw many people die to being this uppity manager to this crazy family, you learn to empathize with people and see where people are coming from and literally stepping into other people's shoes."
As she spoke, the tech crew team, testing the board, had pressed play, and string music rose to greet her words, as if the night's magic had begun long before the curtain lifted.
South Dakota needs to fight political corruption through changes such as limiting campaign contributions to candidates, reducing financial influence by lobbyists and making state government more open, the Democratic candidate for governor said Wednesday.
Sen. Billie Sutton of Burke answered questions about his “Restoring Trust and Integrity Plan” in a teleconference with reporters. He faces the winner of the June 5 Republican primary election between U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and state Attorney General Marty Jackley.
Sutton’s plan came one day after Noem and Jackley debated Tuesday night in Sioux Falls at a forum hosted by the Americans For Prosperity organization.
Among Noem’s points in the debate were the rise in crime and several scandals in state government. One was the improper use of money in a state account related to a visas program. Another was the disappearance of more than $1.3 million of federal funds routed through the state Department of Education to Mid-Central Educational Cooperative at Platte.
Jackley secured a no-prison felony conviction against Joop Bollen of Aberdeen in the EB-5 visa matter and has felony trials pending for three Mid-Central defendants.
State Education Secretary Melody Schopp resigned last year. Her decision to end the state contract with Mid-Central in 2015 came one day before the cooperative’s business manager, Scott Westerhuis, allegedly shot his wife, Nicole, and their four children to death. He allegedly then set their house on fire and shot himself to death.
Jackley’s campaign has featured support from county sheriffs throughout South Dakota.
The release of Sutton’s plan comes 16 months after Republicans in the Legislature repealed anti-corruption measures known as IM 22 that a majority of South Dakota voters approved in the 2016 general election.
Lawmakers subsequently replaced some of the provisions. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is in his eighth and final year as governor, also took a variety of steps to increase transparency.
Sutton, who grew up on a ranch and works at a bank as a financial consultant, said Wednesday he wants to go much farther. He said many South Dakotans have become “disillusioned with politics altogether.”
“I’ve found transparency and trust in government is not a partisan issue,” Sutton told reporters. “This is more of a focus of what we’ve heard from the public.”
South Dakota voters haven’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1974. Sutton said “the establishment” has led to state politics becoming “stale.” He said conditions in state government require more than a five-point plan.
Republicans have super-majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.
Details of Sutton’s proposals are at suttonforsd.com/restoring-trust-and-integrity. Among them:
• Strictly define a gift and limit how much lobbyists can give to elected officials and state employees.
• Require public employees report suspicions of corruption or mismanagement.
• Create an ethics commission covering all branches of government and give it independent investigative and audit authority.
• Re-enact IM 22’s campaign finance limits and end unlimited contributions.
• Require candidates disclose donors’ employers to show potential conflicts of interest.
• Keep public records at least 10 years or longer.
• Require detailed disclosures from lobbyists on a more frequent basis, and regularly audit the reports and make them publicly available.
• Develop a process to track officials and lawmakers after they have left government.
• Require disclosure of multiple state contracts to the same entity that cumulatively exceed $50,000 but weren’t bid.
Ellsworth Air Force Base has been named as one of three sites for the next-generation bomber.
The Air Force made the announcement Wednesday in a release. The Air Force also selected Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to host the new B-21 aircraft.
Using the current bomber bases will minimize operational impact, reduce overhead, maximize reuse of facilities and minimize cost, Air Force officials said.
"Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21," Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in the release. "We expect the first B-21 Raider aircraft to be delivered in the mid-2020s."
Wilson served as president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology until last year, when President Donald Trump picked her to lead the Air Force.
The next-generation bomber is named the B-21 or "Raider." The B-21 will eventually become the backbone of the U.S. bomber fleet. It is being produced by Northrop Grumman. The cost of the bomber has not been released by the Air Force.
"We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide," said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein.
The Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes. That decision is expected in 2019 and the Air Force has not yet decided which location will receive the new bombers first.
South Dakota's congressional delegation applauded the Air Force's decision.
“I welcome today’s decision to include Ellsworth Air Force Base as a candidate to be the first base to receive the new B-21 Raider bomber,” Sen. Mike Rounds said in a release. “It reaffirms the vital role Ellsworth plays in our national defense. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue working with Secretary Wilson and others to make certain the Air Force fully considers the tremendous value of Ellsworth and the value to our nation of placing the B-21 there as soon as possible.”
Sen. Thune echoed a similar statement.
“Today’s great news confirms the Air Force’s intent to base B-21s at Ellsworth,” he said. “The B-1s are a proven workhorse, but evolving threats will require a modernized bomber force. Ellsworth remains well-positioned for the B-21 mission, especially with close access to the expanded Powder River Training Complex, which will be essential for meeting the training needs of these fifth generation aircraft."
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D, said in a release that she was "thrilled" for the opportunity to continue serving Ellsworth.
“Mission after mission, America has turned to Ellsworth Air Force Base and the brave men and women serving there have delivered. I’m awfully proud of that,” Noem said.