The five adults who were temporarily detained Tuesday as police officers investigated a shooting near downtown Rapid City say they had no contact with officers and no idea they were considered suspects until after police called in the Special Response Team.
"I understand that they're doing their jobs, it's just they could have handled it better," 27-year-old Aaron McGuire said Wednesday while sitting in the basement apartment he leases at 422 Columbus St. "We didn't hear anything, the only time that there was any contact with us was when that officer called me" and told us to come outside around noon. "If I had communication, I would have happily complied."
"They miscommunicated with us," said 18-year-old Lily Deblock, who also lives in the apartment.
McGuire, Deblock and her boyfriend, Justin Dotter, and brothers Aaron and Josh England all said they slept through the sound of a gun firing into the apartment above them Tuesday morning. They also said they had no involvement in the shooting, don't know any of the teenagers who were detained, and were never at the blue house police said was related to the incident.
McGuire said the group didn't go outside because he thought it was safest to wait until they were contacted by police.
"I told everybody to stay inside and wait for instructions because I'm not going to have anybody running out and getting shot" by the officers or the potential gunman, he said.
McGuire said a new roommate and the roommate's friend were arrested on unrelated warrants, and he won't be letting that roommate continue renting from him.
The Rapid City police chief defended the actions of his officers and the Rapid City-Pennington County SRT.
"We’re confident the actions taken by law enforcement were appropriate under the complex circumstances to ensure public safety," Karl Jegeris said in an email. "I recognize this was disruptive to the neighborhood, but I assure you we were prepared for the worst."
Police spokesman Brendyn Medina said he couldn't answer more specific questions — such as why officers thought the people in the basement were involved and if they tried to contact the group before activating the SRT — by the Journal's deadline because the detectives who worked on the case went home for the day.
"This was an extremely fluid situation and an even more complicated investigation as police worked through more than a dozen interviews in the aftermath of the incident," Medina said in an email. "Detectives in the RCPD's Criminal Investigation Division continue to actively work to gain the best possible understanding of the circumstances surrounding the incident."
Gunfire was reported at 9:15 a.m Tuesday coming from the east side of 5th Street between Quincy and Columbus streets, Medina previously said.
The gunshot above the basement apartment was still visible Wednesday afternoon. Photos sent to the Journal show the bullet went through the wall and into a headboard of a bed. Medina said a rifle was found inside a car parked outside the building, and a bullet hole through the glass of one of the car's windows lines up with the hole in the bedroom.
No civilians or police officers were injured, and officers did not fire their weapons. It's unclear if police have identified the shooter and motivation behind the shooting.
Josh England said he and his brother spent the night at the basement apartment. The apartment is entered through a ground-level floor that leads down a short hallway that connects to another door at a lower level. The windows are at ground-level and covered in mesh.
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England said the renter who was arrested woke him up around 8:30 or 9 a.m. to say police officers were in the area. He said he joined the man outside to smoke and the man went inside after a few minutes while he stayed outside for about 30 minutes as he watched officers surround the blue house at 812 5th Street and search the area.
England said five officers eventually approached him and asked if he had heard a gun being fired. He said no and went inside the house, and that it didn't seem like the officers were trying to ask him more questions. But he said the officers then surrounded the apartment.
He said he never saw the five teenagers — one girl and four boys — who were detained by 10 a.m outside the blue house. One of those teens was arrested and charged with stealing a vehicle found at the scene, Medina said Tuesday.
McGuire said he learned from the arrested renter that police were looking for a shooter so he woke up everyone else to let them know. The group told the Journal that they never heard officers yelling instructions at them and McGuire said officers never tried communicating with a megaphone or knocked on their doors or windows. In hindsight, he said, he should have called 911 to figure out what was going on.
The group said they later saw the SRT arrive with military-style vehicles, snipers, shields and grenades.
"Something must have happened but I'm not involved, I didn't do anything wrong," Deblock remembers thinking. "I thought they were there for somebody else."
McGuire said the number of weapons and police seemed "a little bit excessive" for an incident involving one shooter, but said he may not know the whole story.
Deblock said she made the group eggs and had the boys do the dishes and clean the apartment while the group watched "Waterboy" on Netflix.
"If we're not allowed to leave I might as well make them breakfast," she said. "What else are you going to do if you have snipers pointing at your apartment building but your roommate is constantly telling you you're not allowed to leave?"
Deblock said the group discussed if they should walk outside but decided to defer to McGuire, "the dad of the apartment."
McGuire said the first time he heard from police is when an officer called him around noon. The officer asked if he knows what is going on outside and he said yes, I can see police outside, McGuire said. He said the officer told the group to walk outside one at a time with their hands up. McGuire said he told the group to act calm and cooperate with police.
The group was seen detained by 12:23 p.m. They said they were embarrassed that officers "paraded" them by the media since it made it seem like they had done something wrong.
"We all walked out one by one with our hands up, being completely compliant, nothing to hide," Deblock recalled.
She said she was handcuffed for about 30 minutes while the boys said they were cuffed for about 90 minutes. The group said they were questioned about the blue house, if they knew the teenagers, what they were doing, and about the car parked outside the apartment. McGuire said the car had been parked there and not moved for about a week.
Deblock said she later gave officers an tour of the apartment and let them search through everything.