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National parks and forest offices in Black Hills affected by government shutdown

Many U.S. government-operated sites and offices in the Black Hills are now fully or partially closed because of the government shutdown.

Following Christmas Eve and Christmas, Wednesday was the first full business day that several government departments and agencies were closed due to a lapse in federal funding that took effect over the weekend. The lapse is the result of a budget standoff over border security between President Donald Trump and Congress.

Following is a summary of impacts at some federal offices and sites around the Black Hills.

Mount Rushmore

Park roads and grounds at Mount Rushmore National Memorial remain open to visitors, but emergency and rescue services are limited.

There are no National Park Service-provided visitor services at Mount Rushmore. That means there is no public information available from the park, some restrooms are closed, some trash is not being collected, some facilities are not being maintained, and some roads are not being plowed.

Some services provided by Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc., an authorized park concessionaire, may be available. Those services include the parking facility (fee required), Carver's Marketplace (food, beverages and restrooms) and gift shop. Contact Xanterra for operating hours at 605-574-2515.

Mount Rushmore social media and websites are not being monitored or updated during the shutdown and may not reflect current conditions.

The sculpture lights will not be turned on during the duration of the government shutdown.

Although South Dakota's state government has helped keep Mount Rushmore fully open during past shutdowns, there will be no state contribution this time.

"Given the winter season, the governor is not planning to use state funds to operate Mount Rushmore during the shutdown at this time," said Tony Venhuizen, chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave National Monument is closed during the shutdown.

Badlands

Badlands National Park will remain open during the shutdown, but there will be no visitor services, and hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist.

Highway 240 (the Loop Road) and Sage Creek Rim Road will remain open if weather conditions allow. Rangers will close roads if weather conditions are unsafe for travel. Pinnacles Overlook, Big Badlands Overlook, Cliff Shelf and the Notch Trail will remain open, but emergency services will be limited during the shutdown.

Because of the shutdown, the park’s social media and websites are not being monitored or updated and may not reflect current conditions.

Minuteman Missile site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is closed during the shutdown.

Wind Cave

Park roads, lookouts and trails at Wind Cave National Park remain open to visitors, but emergency and rescue services are limited.

There will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services at the park, including public information, restrooms, trash collection, facilities and road maintenance on roads NPS 5 and 6. The visitor center and cave are closed. The Elk Mountain Campground remains open, but the park is not providing services, including road maintenance or janitorial support. Highways 385 and 87 remain open and maintained.

The park’s social media and websites are not being monitored or updated during the shutdown and may not reflect current conditions.

Black Hills National Forest

A voice message Wednesday at the phone number of the Mystic Ranger District office in Rapid City said, “You have reached Mystic Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest. This U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed due to the lapse in federal government funding. Please leave a voice mail, and we will return your message as soon as possible once funding has been restored.”

A notice at the top of the website of the Black Hills National Forest says, “Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue.”

BLM

A voice message at the phone number for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Belle Fourche said the office is closed until further notice "due to a lapse in federal budgets."

The BLM’s website said that during the shutdown, the website is not being updated and may not reflect current conditions.

The majority of BLM-managed lands remain open to visitors; however, access may change without notice. There may be no BLM-provided visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance.

U.S. District Court

Court was in session and the federal courthouse was open Wednesday in Rapid City.

Ellsworth Air Force Base

1st Lt. Katherine Sanner said there have been no shutdown impacts at Ellsworth Air Force Base, because funding for the base was included in the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress adopted and the president signed into law in August.


Local
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More snow, wind expected before a mild weekend and cold New Years

More snow and high winds are expected this week before a mild weekend and chilly New Year's Eve and Day, Katie Pojorlie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, said Wednesday. 

Downtown Rapid City collected 2 inches of snow from Tuesday evening to Wednesday late morning, she said. The Custer area saw 1.5 inches, Hill City had 2.8 inches and Black Hawk received 3 inches during that time period. The Northern Hills area had about half an inch of snow by 7 a.m. 

Despite slippery conditions throughout the area, the Rapid City Highway Patrol office had only responded to 13 crashes or vehicle slide-offs by about 3:30 p.m. No major injury crashes were reported, according to the Highway Patrol.

It's expected to snow again today, Pojorlie said. Most of the moisture will fall east of Rapid City, but the city could see another inch of snow.

Today will also bring "gusty winds" blowing 25 to 35 miles per hour from the northwest that could lead to reduced visibility due to blowing and drifting snow, she said. 

"By Friday morning, we should have much lighter winds and no snow here," Pojorlie said. 

While Friday will be "pretty chilly" with a high of 20, Pojorlie said, the weekend will be warmer and dry with temperatures reaching the 30s on Saturday and the 40s on Sunday. 

New Year's Eve and Day are expected to be dry but cold, with a high in the mid-20s, she said. 

While snow will be mild in the Black Hills area, forecasters say a post-Christmas winter storm could dump more than a foot of snow in parts of western South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota in the next several days. 

The National Weather Service predicts areas between Lake Andes, Mitchell and Watertown and Fargo, North Dakota, could see between 12 and 18 inches of snow by Friday.

The weather service forecasts 8 to 13 inches of snow across northern, central and western Minnesota by the end of the work week.

Meteorologists say the storm will deliver a mix of rain, freezing rain and snow that is expected to cause deteriorating travel conditions and power outages. Reduced visibility due to blowing snow is likely today into early Friday morning. Officials expect travel along Interstate 29 and I-94 to be treacherous.


PHOTOS: Snowfall blankets region

PHOTOS: Snowfall blankets region

Crime-and-courts
top story
Fatal shooting by deputy was justified, investigation finds
Deputy who shot Lorenzen ID'd for first time

A fatal November shooting of a criminal suspect by a Pennington County sheriff's deputy was justified, according to Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Jackley and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which is under his supervision, released findings Wednesday from an investigation into the shooting.

The findings include the name of the deputy, Christopher Plawman, and a disclosure that the shooting victim, Matthew Lorenzen, had been reported to authorities for making suicidal threats.

“It is my conclusion as attorney general that Deputy Christopher Plawman was justified in firing his weapon and using lethal force," Jackley said in a news release. "I would like to thank the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and the deputy for their service and complete cooperation in this investigation."

Jackley's statement and the DCI's report are the first releases of the deputy's name by authorities after the Pennington County Sheriff's Office had refused to identify the deputy publicly. The Sheriff's Office had said the shots fired by Lorenzen at officers during a pursuit qualified the deputy as a victim who was eligible for anonymity under a victims' bill of rights known as Marsy's Law in the South Dakota Constitution.

Plawman initially invoked his right to anonymity, the sheriff's office has said. Sara Rabern, a spokeswoman for Jackley, said Wednesday that Plawman has since decided to allow the release of his name.

Plawman fatally shot the 19-year-old Lorenzen on Nov. 30 near New Underwood after Lorenzen led authorities on a chase originating in Rapid City. The chase ended when Lorenzen's vehicle rolled and he emerged with a rifle, according to the investigative findings. Plawman used his patrol rifle to fatally shoot Lorenzen once in the upper torso.

The nine-page investigative summary released Wednesday by Jackley and the DCI said the pursuit of Lorenzen began at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 30. A Pennington County sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop a silver Chrysler Voyager minivan for traveling 80 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone near the intersection of state Highway 79 and Old Folsom Road in southeast Rapid City.

The driver of the vehicle — later identified as Lorenzen — did not stop but instead crossed the median of Highway 79 and headed east on Elk Vale Road, losing the deputy in the process.

While the deputy searched for the minivan, a dispatcher advised the deputy that Lorenzen was the minivan’s registered owner, and that he was the subject of a recent attempt-to-locate bulletin for making suicidal threats.

The bulletin was issued after a person contacted the Pennington County/Rapid City Emergency Services Communications Center on Nov. 15 to report that Lorenzen wanted to get a gun and kill himself. Law enforcement officers attempted to locate Lorenzen after receiving the report but were unsuccessful, according to the DCI report.

After Lorenzen's evasion of the deputy on Nov. 30, his minivan was eventually spotted by another Pennington County sheriff’s deputy at Lorenzen’s residence, apparently in Rapid Valley. The deputy who spotted the minivan saw Lorenzen exit it and enter the residence, the DCI report says. Lorenzen then exited the residence and got back in the minivan before other deputies arrived to assist.

A high-speed pursuit ensued, the DCI report says, involving officers from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, the police departments of Box Elder and Rapid City, and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

During the pursuit, Lorenzen fired a .17-caliber rifle through his windshield at officers while he was near the intersection of Plateau and Albert lanes in Rapid Valley, the DCI report says, and deputies later reported another shot fired by Lorenzen during the pursuit.

Spike strips were deployed at various locations but failed to stop Lorenzen’s vehicle, including once when the DCI report says he swerved into the ditch to avoid the strips near Sunnydale and Radar Hill roads in Box Elder. A Box Elder police officer fired his handgun once at Lorenzen and reported shattering the minivan’s driver-side window, but the minivan kept going.

The pursuit continued at speeds reaching more than 90 mph, according to the DCI report, and Lorenzen traveled in oncoming lanes of state Highway 44 and Interstate 90, causing oncoming traffic to swerve out of his way. Deputy Plawman joined the pursuit near I-90 milepost 65, he later told investigators.

Lorenzen took Exit 78 off I-90 near New Underwood, and a Pennington County sheriff’s deputy executed a tactical vehicle intervention, the DCI report says.

Lorenzen’s vehicle rolled down an embankment just south of I-90 and came to rest upside down. While multiple law enforcement officers converged on the scene, the DCI report says Lorenzen exited his vehicle momentarily. Deputies ordered him to get on the ground and show his hands, but Lorenzen did not comply, the DCI report says. Some deputies heard Lorenzen say “shoot me,” according to the DCI's summary of witness interviews.

From his knees, according to the report, Lorenzen reached back into the minivan and grabbed his scoped rifle, which was later described as a "Savage Model .17 HMR." Some officers on the scene yelled “Gun. Gun. Gun,” according to a later interview by investigators with Plawman, who said he had taken cover and was observing Lorenzen from behind a patrol vehicle.

“As Lorenzen stood up with the rifle in his hands, Deputy Christopher Plawman engaged Lorenzen, firing one round and striking him in the upper torso,” the DCI report says.

Plawman used a .223-caliber patrol rifle.

“Deputy Plawman said he felt he and other law enforcement officers were in danger,” the DCI report says.

Lorenzen dropped to the ground immediately, according to the report. Life-saving measures were performed on him by law enforcement until medical personnel arrived and pronounced him dead at the scene.

Patrol-vehicle cameras and officers’ body cameras captured video and audio of the pursuit and the fatal shooting, according to the DCI. Rabern, of the Attorney General's Office, said requests for copies of the video and audio should go to the local agencies. Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom denied a Journal request for copies of the video and audio Wednesday.

The DCI report says one live round of ammunition was found jammed inside the chamber of Lorenzen’s rifle, while the rifle contained a magazine with seven live rounds, and there was a box of live ammunition inside Lorenzen’s minivan.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer present at the scene utilized deadly force in a situation that was tense, uncertain, and building,” the DCI report says.

A small bag of marijuana was found outside the vehicle after the rollover, according to the report. A later toxicology report showed that Lorenzen had marijuana in his system and his blood-alcohol content was .054, which is below the .08 threshold for driving under the influence.

A Journal search of Lorenzen's criminal record in South Dakota found no prior violent crimes, but he was arrested for drug-related crimes twice during the final few months of 2017.

One of those cases was opened in September 2017 when Lorenzen was pulled over in Lawrence County for driving a vehicle without license plates. Evidence found during the traffic stop resulted in charges of driving under the influence, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.

In March, Lorenzen accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to DUI and possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. He was sentenced to 20 days in jail with credit for eight days already served.

While that case was pending, Lorenzen was pulled over by a Pennington County sheriff's deputy in December 2017 for speeding. Evidence turned up during that traffic stop resulted in charges of DUI and marijuana possession. The case was still pending at the time of Lorenzen's death. He was free on a bail bond and was scheduled for a court hearing in December after hearings in October and August had been continued.