Neighbors tell of intense night

2012-11-08T06:00:00Z Neighbors tell of intense nightRyan Lengerich Journal staff Rapid City Journal
November 08, 2012 6:00 am  • 

Tensions ran high for residents of an upscale west Rapid City neighborhood as police, monitoring what they characterized as a murder-suicide, forced some neighbors to evacuate, while others hunkered down to stay safe.

The incident — which included the use of loud "flashbang" grenades by police — played out over a roughly five-hour period Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning outside a quaint townhouse not far from the Chapel in the Hills.

Police say Brad Swanson, 58, shot and killed his girlfriend, 55-year-old Deb Ohlmacher, at the townhouse. Special police units were called to the scene about 9:15 p.m., and the episode didn't end until officers stormed the home about 2 a.m. to find Ohlmacher's body and Swanson dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot.

Marj Harlan, who lives in an adjacent building and is president of the neighborhood homeowner's association, said she didn't know Ohlmacher well but described her as upbeat and always smiling.

Harlan said Ohlmacher's relationship with Swanson had been on-and-off. "I know that he lived there, then he didn't live there, then he lived there," Harlan said.

The High Place condo complex sits just off Chapel Drive a short distance from the Chapel in the Hills. The multi-story homes sit in pods of four,  surrounded by pine trees on a rolling landscape, and feature views over nearby subdivisions.

Ohlmacher was a dental hygienist at the Swanson Dental Group on Jackson Boulevard, owned by Brad Swanson's brother. It was not clear Wednesday what Brad Swanson did for a living.

Neighbor Shebby Lee's condo sits only 15 yards away from Ohlmacher's condo, and her view faces the crime scene. But Lee said she never heard gunshots during the standoff.

At 1 a.m., Lee said police officers pounded on her door and ordered her into a room in her home with no windows for about an hour. During that time, she said, she heard police deploy stun grenades used to distract or disorient a suspect. 

"They were shooting out cannons, it sounded like, and yelling, 'Come out with your hands up,'" Lee said. "They did that twice between 1 a.m and 2 a.m. My cats were traumatized. They were in really rough shape and still are."

She said she had a friendly relationship with Ohlmacher but did not know Swanson well.

"I couldn't get a feel for him at all. Virtually every day I would see him, since he didn't seem to be working anymore," Lee said.

Nearby resident Janet Orr said she never heard gunshots but did hear the grenades. She didn't know Swanson but remembers Ohlmacher as a "a nice, outdoorsy person."

Al Asher, whose unit is attached to Ohlmacher's, said he didn't know Swanson personally.

"I had seen him drive by in his red pickup," Asher said. "I have waved at him a couple of times when he rode by, and he never waved back."

Two SWAT team members told Asher to leave his home about 10:45 p.m., forcing him to rent a motel room for the night.

Police said Wednesday the gun Swanson used was a small firearm; it was found inside the home after officers entered.

"I didn't hear any gunshots," Asher said. "I didn't hear any noise; I didn't hear anything."

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. SadDistantCousin
    Report Abuse
    SadDistantCousin - November 09, 2012 6:15 am
    Rest in Peace, Debra. Prayers to your loved ones from an Ohlmacher decendant on the other side of the country...
  2. Nicky
    Report Abuse
    Nicky - November 08, 2012 10:21 am
    What better word would there be? If police come to my house in the middle of the night and tell me I have to leave, even though it's for my own safety, what am I supposed to do? Of course I'm going to go get a motel room. I could go wake up my friends and inconvienience them, but that's not the kind of person I was raised to be. If it were before 10PM, yes, I would go couch surfing for the night. In those situations, decisions have to be made quickly and maybe the decisions arn't always the best, when viewed in hind sight, but at the time, they no doubt made good sense.
  3. snowflake
    Report Abuse
    snowflake - November 08, 2012 6:49 am
    forcing him to rent a motel room for the night.

    A bad choice of word, forcing. It sounds like the gun was to his head.
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