A 20-year-old Box Elder man went on a rampage Friday after being sentenced to 60 years in prison by 7th Circuit Judge Janine Kern.
John Shaw Jr. had just left the courtroom when he grappled with Pennington County Sheriff’s deputies before smashing his hand through a glass door leading to the first-floor rotunda of the Pennington County Courthouse.
A loud bang, followed by the crackle of shattering glass and angry shouts echoed through the rotunda clear to the courthouse’s third floor, startling people doing business at county offices in the courthouse.
Simultaneously, a fight erupted in the rotunda between Shaw’s supporters, who apparently were upset with the sentence. Two people were arrested after the incident. Bradley Ness, 18, of Rapid City was charged with disorderly conduct. Sonrisa Stafford, 19, of Rapid City, was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. Shaw’s only contact with his supporters was a brief exchange in the courtroom.
Arriving deputies and police officers separated several angry women in the rotunda and rushed to assist the injured Shaw, who was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where he was treated for injuries that required stitches. He was returned to jail later Friday. A sheriff’s office investigator in the courtroom was cut during the scuffle.
Kern’s courtroom is the only courtroom in the rotunda. Prisoners leave it through a hallway that connects the judge’s offices with the courtroom. Spectators exit by another door, but spectators and prisoners alike pass through the rotunda.
After the incident, 7th Circuit Presiding Judge Jeff Davis said he had re-examined procedures that are used to move prisoners.
“I’m comfortable with what we’re doing,” he said. Each courtroom is equipped with a panic button to summon additional help, he said.
The entire incident, however, demonstrates the need to separate the court system from routine county business, Davis said. That will happen when the courthouse annex is completed in two years, he said.
“It’s an inconvenience for taxpayers to have to go through security, but imagine what would have happened if any weapons had gotten into the courthouse today,” Davis said.
Shaw appeared at his sentencing wearing the red-and-white jail uniform of a Pennington County Jail inmate in segregation. His hands were shackled to a belt around his waist. His feet were shackled, too.
“He has had some behavior issues at the jail,” Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said. The red-and-white uniform typically identifies a “high-risk inmate,” he said.
Inmates occasionally become combative with transport officers moving them between the jail and the courthouse, Thom said. This is the first instance that he could recall of an inmate being injured.
In August 2010, 21-year-old Leon Randall wrestled a gun away from a deputy in the sally port between the courthouse and the jail. Other deputies rushed to help subdue Randall, who later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer for that incident.
Before Shaw's outburst Friday, he had pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle during an incident in February near Reptile Gardens. Each felony carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
In that incident, Shaw, who was intoxicated, shot a stolen handgun at a vehicle traveling on U.S. Highway 16. The bullet passed through a passenger door before lodging in the vehicle’s console. Three people were in the vehicle.
As part of the plea agreement, Pennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Anthony Bolson asked Kern to give Shaw consecutive sentences totaling 50 years in prison.
In exchange for Shaw’s guilty pleas, prosecutors dismissed several felony charges that could have resulted in 229 years in prison.
Shaw carried a “serious juvenile history" into the courtroom, according to Bolson.
Shaw's earliest juvenile incident of note occurred in 2005, when at age 13, he was placed on probation for bringing a weapon to school. While a juvenile, Shaw went missing from the Department of Corrections’ supervision on four different occasions.
In January 2012, Shaw stole the handgun used in the shooting near Reptile Gardens from a Box Elder resident. Later in January, he used the stolen gun to shoot at a rival’s house, Bolson said.
“And then he went to settle a score at a local housing complex,” Bolson said of the string of incidents that preceded the Highway 16 shooting.
After shooting at the carload of people Feb. 1 near Reptile Gardens, Shaw assaulted his girlfriend, Bolson said.
In addition, Shaw was facing felony grand theft charges for breaking into vehicles and possible child pornography charges because photos of his minor girlfriend were found on his cell phone.
Shaw has amassed a criminal history more common in a 50- or 60-year-old man, Bolson said during the sentencing.
Shaw’s attorney, Paul Brankin, asked Kern to consider his client’s age when sentencing him.
“A long incarceration won’t do him any good, and it’s not good for society,” he said.
Although Shaw apologized to the victims in the courtroom and appeared contrite when he spoke to the judge, Kern was not persuaded.
Throughout his time in her courtroom, Shaw had been “cocky, arrogant and rebellious,” Kern said.
Although his drug and alcohol addictions contributed to his behavior, his criminal history and conduct indicate that he is an extreme risk to the community, Kern said.
Kern’s sentence included three consecutive 15-year sentences for aggravated assault and a 15-year sentence with 10 years suspended for shooting at the vehicle. Shaw won’t be eligible for parole for 25 years.
Kern also assessed Shaw more than $18,000 in restitution.
“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated in this society,” Kern said.
It isn't known if Shaw will face additional charges for Friday’s outburst.
[This story has been changed to reflect a correction. Shaw received four consecutive sentences 15-year sentences, with 10 years suspended.]