A Custer County deputy was justified when he shot a man in January who pointed a gun at him after being told to drop it multiple times, according to a law enforcement report and finding by a prosecutor.
“The deputy sheriff involved acted appropriately and only fired after the defendant ignored repeated demands that he put the gun down and after the defendant raised his own gun to aim it at the deputy,” wrote Mark Vargo, Pennington County state’s attorney.
Jared Frasier, a 32-year-old from Custer, is charged with aggravated assault against the deputy for the Jan. 3 incident, court records show. He’s also charged with aggravated domestic abuse assault with a deadly weapon and simple domestic abuse assault against the woman who called 911.
The deputy is not named in the report from the Division of Criminal Investigation and only has his initials listed in the Frasier’s court documents. The Custer County sheriff and state’s attorney offices did not immediately respond to messages asking about the deputy’s name and experience.
"The DCI never releases the name of the officer in officer-involved shooting reports. If the agency involved chooses to do so that is at their discretion," said spokesman Tim Bormann.
Serious police use-of-force incidents are usually evaluated by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg but his role was taken over by Vargo and the Minnehaha County state’s attorney while he was under investigation and eventually charged in relation to hitting and killing a man with his car.
The arrangement was requested Nov. 3 by the leaders of Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Pennington and Minnehaha County law enforcement agencies and was backed by the South Dakota sheriff and police chief associations.
What follows is from the deputy’s interview with a DCI agent and Pennington County deputy on Jan. 6, three days after the shooting.
The deputy said they received a message from dispatch that said a woman from a home on the 800 block of Montgomery Street in Custer called 911 saying she “needed help now!” before hanging up. They assumed the message and sudden hang-up meant the person was in medical distress or in a domestic violence situation.
The deputy arrived and could hear yelling inside the home. A woman who was bleeding and had an injury to her face opened the door and an “extremely distraught” child had fallen or was crouching in fear.
The woman told the child to go to his room and the deputy saw there were three children in the room. The woman then called for Frasier to exit his room.
Frasier came out with a handgun in his hand so the deputy began pulling out his duty weapon and told Frasier to drop the gun. Frasier pointed the gun at the deputy as the deputy was taking out the gun. The deputy then shot Frasier three times.
The woman told investigators that the deputy told Frasier to put the gun down. She said Frasier didn’t listen but she doesn’t think he ever pointed the gun at the deputy.
Body-worn camera footage shows that Frasier did raise his gun and point it at the deputy, the report says. It also captured the woman and deputy repeatedly telling Frasier to put away or drop the gun.
Frasier fell and the woman picked up the weapon and put it back in the gun safe, footage shows. The woman and deputy provided first aid until Frasier was taken to the Rapid City hospital.
Frasier had life-threatening injuries from being shot three times in the right chest, arm and shoulder, the report says. His blood alcohol content was .237, nearly three times the amount allowed while driving.
Investigators found that Frasier’s handgun had one live round in the chamber, seven rounds in the magazine and the safety mechanism was in the fire position.
The deputy said he shot Frasier because he was afraid for his life and the life of the woman and children. “I need to shoot him or I’m going to die,” he remembers thinking when Frasier raised the gun at him.
The woman said in an interview she returned home around 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 and could tell Frasier had been drinking. He began to argue with her and spit his tobacco chew on her.
They ended up in the boy’s bedroom where Frasier yelled at her and her children. She said Frasier slapped her in the face, ripping her nose ring out. She then heard Frasier open the gun safe in another room.
Frasier returned to the room where he pointed a hunting rifle at her and threatened to kill her. The woman said Frasier put the barrel of the rifle in his mouth and later tried to strangle her.
Frasier became angry and broke the rifle by swinging it like a baseball bat against the boy’s dresser, the woman said. He then retrieved a pistol and pointed it at her from about six feet away before putting it in his mouth and aiming it at his head.
The woman said Frasier hit her in the forehead, making her bleed, and she was able to make the quick 911 call when he left to get a beer.
While Frasier never pointed his gun at the children, they witnessed everything.
I’m “thankful to be alive,” the woman told DCI agents.
The boy recounted similar details in his interview. He said he got on the ground when the deputy arrived because he was afraid of the fighting and getting shot. He said he took care of his two young female siblings after his mom told him to go to his room.
One of the girls said she saw Frasier hitting and pointing the gun at the woman.
Frasier, who was let out of jail on a personal recognize bond, is expected to return to court for a preliminary hearing at 11:20 a.m. on April 6.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at firstname.lastname@example.org.