A rocky romance between a Rapid City man and his girlfriend who was a local dental hygienist turned deadly for both Tuesday night when the boyfriend shot the woman to death before killing himself as police stood watch outside, authorities said Wednesday.
The dead were identified as Deb Ohlmacher, 55, and Brad Swanson, 58. The pair lived together in Ohlmacher’s townhouse at 3 Woodrun Lane, just off Chapel Drive, not far from Chapel in the Hills in western Rapid City.
Police were notified about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday that a man, later identified as Swanson, had killed his girlfriend and was armed and holed up inside the condo. Police did not identify the person who contacted them but said it was a family member who was not at the scene.
The first officers arrived outside the residence before 9:30 p.m., but it would be after 2 a.m. before they entered the darkened townhouse to discover the bodies.
Police spent more than an hour talking with Swanson on the phone before he severed contact with them. During that time, Swanson said that Ohlmacher was already dead, according to Lt. Tom Senesac.
Swanson refused to cooperate with negotiators, said Lt. James Johns, deputy commander of the Special Response Team that took charge of the incident. Those on the scene did not hear the gunshot when Swanson apparently killed himself.
The two-story townhouse sits at the back of a four-unit complex and abuts a forested hillside.
“The house was completely dark, which presented a very difficult environment for our staff to work,” Johns said.
“The townhouses are not a cookie-cutter design. We had no idea of a floor plan,” Johns said.
Ohlmacher was a dental hygienist at the Swanson Dental Group on Jackson Boulevard, which is owned by Swanson's brother, Erik Swanson, who declined to comment when reached at his office Wednesday.
Ann Shepherd knew Ohlmacher for about 25 years as a friend and dental hygienist. She said Ohlmacher was a single mother whose son, Justin, is a chef in Denver.
Shepherd had once met Swanson and knew he and Ohlmacher dated for “quite a while." However, about two years ago, Ohlmacher told Shepherd that she and Swanson were taking a break.
“I didn’t know they were back together,” Shepherd said. "The questions are rolling through my mind.”
Residents in the three adjoining townhouses were evacuated during the standoff. People living in neighboring units were notified and asked to stay inside, Johns said.
“Obviously, the concern of neighborhood and allowing for a prolonged event wasn’t in the best interest of the neighborhood or the other citizens of Rapid City,” Johns said.
Making sure neighbors were safe and ensuring that there was not an increased risk to officers was a priority when the decision was being made to enter the townhouse, Johns said.
Before entering the home about 2 a.m., officers threw a "flashbang" grenade into the house. The explosive devise produces a disorienting, loud noise and bright light.
Johns said a small caliber handgun was found inside the house.
Swanson was not a stranger to police, according to Johns.
Records show that Swanson had several run-ins with law enforcement in Yankton County several years ago.
Swanson was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence/simple assault in 2001; he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $70 fine.
In 2003, also in Yankton County, Swanson was charged with possession of a loaded firearm while intoxicated. That charge was also reduced to disorderly conduct, records show. He was fined $164. He was also charged with discharging a firearm in the city limits, but that charge was dismissed.
Also in 2003, a woman named Kelly Swanson of Yankton was granted a permanent protection order against Swanson. Their relationship was not clear from the records.
In 2007, Brad Swanson pleaded guilty to second-offense driving under the influence in Pennington County. He was fined $700 and served seven days in jail.
The investigation into what happened inside the townhouse is still ongoing. Investigators are trying to piece together the details of the couple’s relationship and what happened Tuesday, Johns said.
“I don’t know what leads a person to take this type of action. It’s an illogical act. It’s a tragic event, and there’s no justification for it. Being able to explain it or put a motive to it is impossible,” Johns said.
Autopsies for Ohlmacher and Swanson are scheduled for Friday.