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Tieszen's life celebrated as model for others

Craig Tieszen had a quality that made him stand out wherever he went, from the Peace Corps in Africa to the state Capitol in Pierre.

“He was genuine,” said Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender.

Allender was one of five speakers Monday during Tieszen’s funeral. About 900 people braved a blast of wintry weather to attend the service in the Fine Arts Theatre at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, where Tieszen’s life was celebrated as one worth emulating.

Allender described Tieszen as a man whose core remained consistent as his titles changed.

“He was Craig before, during and after he was a policeman and a legislator," Allender said.

Those two roles were the primary ones for which Tieszen was known to the public before he died Nov. 22 at age 68 in a kayaking accident on Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, where he had traveled to attend the wedding of one of his daughters. Tieszen's brother-in-law, Brent Moline, also died in the accident.

Attendees at the funeral learned that the qualities so many admired in Tieszen as a longtime community leader were already present in his early 20s, when he served four years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching high school classes in Kenya.

Allender read a Facebook message from one of Tieszen’s former students in Africa who wrote of Tieszen’s “integrity and humility.” In another comment read by Allender, a former Peace Corps volunteer commented that Tieszen was “the nicest guy, very intelligent and very funny.”

Before joining the Peace Corps, Tieszen grew up as a farm boy near Canistota in eastern South Dakota. He sold some cattle given to him by his father to raise money for college, and he earned a degree in chemical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

After his service in the Peace Corps, Tieszen began a 32-year career with the Rapid City Police Department.

“It was a decision that would allow him to only earn a fraction of the wages he could’ve earned as a chemical engineer,” Allender said. “He always knew that, but never wished he had decided differently.”

Tieszen’s law enforcement career culminated in his service as police chief from 2000 to 2007. In that role, he mentored both Allender, who served as chief before retiring and winning election as mayor, and current Chief of Police Karl Jegeris.

After retiring from the police department, Tieszen entered politics in 2008 and won four consecutive two-year terms in the state Senate until term limits forced him out. He then won election to the state House of Representatives and was serving his first term.

During his legislative career, Tieszen earned a reputation as a careful, fair-minded, thoughtful lawmaker who was a beacon of civility in an increasingly coarse political climate. During Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s turn at the podium Monday, his voice broke with emotion as he described Tieszen as a “model legislator.”

“Most of us first heard about Craig’s loss on Thanksgiving, and for me it was a reminder to be thankful for our loved ones and for the time we’re given on this earth,” Daugaard said. “Craig Tieszen made the most of his time, and we can all learn from his example. Our state is a better place today because of Craig Tieszen.”

Some of Monday's speakers talked about the nonpublic side of Tieszen’s life. He was described as a devoted husband to his wife, Deb, for 37 years, and a loving father to their two daughters, Leslie and Laura.

When the Tieszen daughters were young, the family spent much of its free time with the Oyler family, and the families grew so close that one of the Oyler children was named after Craig. That child, Craig Oyler, now an adult, spoke Monday at the funeral and said his first “client” when he was an 11-year-old aspiring fishing guide was Tieszen. Oyler drew further laughs with several humorous stories, including his family’s use of Tieszen’s law enforcement connections to run background checks on the boyfriends of Oyler’s sister.

To distinguish between the two Craigs, Oyler said, the two families called Oyler “little Craig” and called Tieszen “big Craig.” Eventually, Oyler outgrew Tieszen, but the names still stuck.

“Even though I may have been bigger in stature, he was bigger in life, and he was a bigger man than I probably will ever be,” Oyler said. “And I’ll always look up to him for that.”

Jegeris spoke of Tieszen’s lifelong devotion to public service and volunteering, noting that Tieszen worked at the Rapid City Club for Boys during the summer before Tieszen entered college. Later, Tieszen served about 35 years on the organization’s board of directors. Beyond helping to guide the organization, Tieszen also volunteered and became known for taking boys on bicycle rides on the Mickelson Trail.

“He has been connected and volunteered in one way or another with the Rapid City Club for Boys for almost 50 years,” Jegeris said. “Talk about taking the term ‘volunteer’ to an extreme.”

Jegeris also mentioned Tieszen’s three-decade devotion to basketball officiating, including 25 years officiating at the Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City.

Rapid City Police Chaplain Corey Harouff spoke last and talked of Tieszen’s quiet faith, which Harouff said provided Tieszen with a “deep center” from which his positive traits emanated.

At the end of the service, dozens of public safety officials and state and local government officials accepted Allender’s invitation to pay a final salute to Tieszen. They lined up and walked across the stage to Tieszen’s coffin where, one by one, they snapped a salute, or touched a hand to the coffin, or stood in respectful silence.

Funeral attendees left in a reflective mood after being exhorted by several of the speakers, including Oyler, to live a life more like Tieszen’s.

“I know our hearts are broken. We’re confused. We’re sad. We’re upset,” Oyler said. “But in honor of Craig Tieszen, I ask you to greet people with a smile. In honor of Craig, I ask you to listen to someone tell their story. And in honor of Craig, I ask you to make someone feel like the most important person in the room, because I can guarantee that’s what ‘Big Craig’ would do.”


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Court records: Kidnap attempt preceded killing of Vincent Brewer

Recently unsealed federal court documents say that a man fatally shot at a Pine Ridge youth center last year was almost kidnapped before he was killed. The records also reveal two more men have been charged in the murder.

Francisco Villanueva, 39, and Adan James Corona, 31, who have been arrested in Colorado, were charged Nov. 22 with murder and conspiracy in the death of Vincent Brewer III. Myles Tuttle, 24, arrested last year on accusations of murder and being an accessory after the fact, faces additional charges.

Their indictment, unsealed Thursday, states that the three men and some unnamed people sought out Brewer at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in October 2016 “to collect an alleged drug debt.” Brewer, 29, also known as Vinny, was apparently killed after the group found him and he tried to get away.

The four-page document, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, provides the following chronology of events:

Around Oct. 16 last year, Villanueva, Corona and unnamed individuals traveled from Colorado to South Dakota, carrying multiple firearms. That morning, they went to Rapid City, met up with Tuttle and took two cars to Pine Ridge “with a plan to assault and kidnap Brewer in order to collect the alleged drug debt.”

They drove around Pine Ridge looking for Brewer on Oct. 16, and picked up people who could help find him.

After finding him in front of the SuAnne Big Crow Youth Development Center, “they physically assaulted him and attempted to kidnap him by shoving him into the backseat of one of their vehicles.

“When Brewer escaped the vehicle he was immediately gunned down by multiple shooters,” including Tuttle, Villanueva, Corona and another unnamed person.

Tuttle, Villanueva and Corona have been charged with first-degree murder as a premeditated killing, first-degree murder in relation to kidnapping and conspiracy to commit assault.

Tuttle is still charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for allegedly assisting Brewer’s attackers in evading authorities. The men’s indictment states the attackers included people who are unknown to the grand jury.

Another person charged in Brewer’s killing, Pine Ridge resident Tiffanee Garnier, pleaded guilty in September to being an accessory after the fact. She admitted being part of the group that sought Brewer in Pine Ridge, and said she was accompanied by at least six other people.

Garnier said Brewer appeared to know several of his attackers and the reason they showed up at the youth center. She faces up to 15 years in prison, and is awaiting sentencing in March.

Tuttle, detained at the Pennington County Jail since March, is scheduled to appear at the Rapid City federal courthouse Wednesday on his new charges. He previously pleaded not guilty.

Villanueva and Corona were both arrested in Colorado on Thursday, according to court records. It’s unclear when they will make their court appearances in Rapid City. Villanueva is also known as “Gumby” and “Pancho”; Corona as “Ace Boogie.”

Federal authorities have said Brewer’s killing might be linked to another fatal Pine Ridge shooting in September 2016, in which 34-year-old Annie Colhoff was killed. Three people have been charged in that case, including Brewer’s sister who was sentenced to probation for failing to report the shooting.


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Council OKs plan to pay school district $2.9M for full ownership of shared building

The City-School Administration Center at 300 Sixth St. may soon need a new name after the city took the first step toward taking complete ownership of the building Monday night.

The Rapid City Council unanimously approved an agreement for the city to pay the Rapid City Area School District $2,904,450 for its partial ownership of the building, giving the city total ownership of it while the school district looks to move its offices and staff to the recently vacated Black Hills Energy building at 625 Ninth St.

The YMCA also plans to move into the vacant building, with preliminary plans giving the YMCA the first four floors as it expands its child care and preschool program and the school obtaining the top four floors for its administrative offices.

According to a document distributed at a press event announcing the plan two weeks ago, the school district's cost to move into the Black Hills Energy building will be about $2.3 million. The purchase price of the building was not made public, but the building and land are valued at $6.36 million for tax purposes and were listed for sale earlier this year at a price of $7.5 million.

As part of the council’s approved motion — made by Alderwoman Amanda Scott — the city will pay $1.5 million to the school district within 60 days of the agreement being finalized. The money for that payment will come from the city’s Capital Improvement Plan contingency fund, a reserve fund associated with city infrastructure projects. The agreement stipulates that the city has up to four years to pay off the remaining $1.5 million balance, but the council has yet to decide on a funding source for those payments. Each payment must be at least $260,000, per the agreement.

The cost of the buyout is based on an average of two separate appraisals of the CSAC building by Simpson & Associates in 2009 and 2016, minus deferred maintenance costs. The final figure, $8,500,000, was then multiplied by the school’s percentage of ownership of the building, at 34 percent.

In a Nov. 14 memo by Mayor Steve Allender to the council, Allender said he preferred using “the combination of joint Vision/CIP funding,” a reference to the city’s Vision Fund. That fund collected and allocated about $13 million to local projects in 2017 but will see an estimated $1.1 million reduction in funding in 2018 due to a September council decision that changed the allocation of city sales tax collections. In the same memo, Allender justified the purchase, saying “the space needs of both administrations have surpassed our joint location.” If the city and school were to try and stay in the same building moving forward, he said, it “would require significant structural work to the building including the likely completion of a third floor.”

Though the city has approved the agreement, the school must also approve it before it is finalized. After Monday’s meeting, city attorney Joel Landeen said the school board would likely consider the agreement at its next meeting Dec. 11. Landeen added that though he didn’t know the current status of negotiations, the school district also needed to enter into an agreement with the YMCA, which may result in a joint ownership agreement between the two parties for the former Black Hills Energy building.

If all agreements are finalized and approved, Lori Simon, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools, said the school district plans to move out of the CSAC building this summer and into its new offices by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

In other action, the council:

• Heard a presentation by former state representative Al Scovel and area psychiatrist Stephen Manlove on the need for an expansion of mental health treatment facilities and services in western South Dakota. Scovel made a similar presentation to the Pennington County Board of Commissioners at their Nov. 21 meeting, where he asked the board to draft a resolution to support additional mental health services in western South Dakota. The resolution will come before the board at their meeting today. In a Journal interview last week following a meeting between Manlove, Scovel and other local officials on the topic of mental health care in the area, Scovel said he planned to bring the resolutions before the Legislature sometime early next year. “I’m going to pursue this thing,” he said. “I’ve been a legislator. I know how it works. I know that it’s something that we desperately need out here.” Scovel estimated that in the best case scenario, it would be three years before he could get a commitment from the state to build a mental health facility in western South Dakota, which remains his ultimate goal. “Our job is to put the legislators and the governor, whoever he or she may be, their feet to the fire,” he said Monday night. “Let’s have at it.”

• Approved a resolution to create a tax increment financing district, or TIF, for a lot northwest of the intersection of U.S. Highway 16 and Catron Boulevard. In the proposed TIF district, about $5.5 million in property tax payments would be diverted toward construction of a road — called Promise Road in city documents — that would link Golden Eagle Drive with Catron Boulevard along the western edge of the TIF district boundary. Utility and traffic signal adjustments and road realignments at the intersection of Promise Road and Catron Boulevard, and Promise Road and Golden Eagle Drive, would also be completed. Hani Shafai, president of Dream Design International and the developer of the 105-acre lot, said the parcel is expected to house some minor retail space, a hotel and some restaurants. The main piece of the project is a $50 million professional office building which would employ between 250 to 300 people, Shafai said Monday night. None of the TIF funds would go toward building those structures. Currently, the estimated assessed value of the area within the proposed district is about $3 million. Assuming the project goes to plan, the estimated valuation in 2037 would be approximately $51 million, according to city documents.

• Approved the second reading of an ordinance crafted to allow artisan distilleries to operate in downtown Rapid City as a conditional use. Per South Dakota law, artisan distillery production is limited to 50,000 gallons or less of distilled spirits per year. Randal Decker, part-owner of Black Hills Contraband, petitioned the city for the ordinance as his distilling company looks to relocate from Box Elder to Rapid City and open a distillery and bar. In a Sept. 18 letter to city staff, Decker said his company was interested in moving into the building currently housing Hay Camp Brewing Company at 601 Kansas City St., though the distillery would be located in a separate part of the building with its own address. Moving forward, Decker and Black Hills Contraband must now begin the application process for a conditional use permit.


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