The man who stole a state Highway Patrol car, assaulted a trooper and escaped in another vehicle was sentenced Thursday to seven years in state prison and was ordered to pay more than $21,000 in restitution.
For the crime of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, Joshua Two Bulls, 41, was given a 10-year sentence with three years suspended by Judge Craig Pfeifle of the 7th Circuit Court in Rapid City.
His time in state prison is scheduled to begin after he completes 16 to 20 months in a Nebraska prison for another crime, Pfeifle said. The judge also ordered Two Bulls to pay extradition and court fees and $21,373.69 in restitution for damaging the trooper's vehicle.
Two Bulls previously pleaded no contest to the assault charge, saying he was too intoxicated to remember the events that transpired on May 27, 2017. No contest means a defendant doesn't admit to the charge, but accepts a punishment as if it were a guilty plea. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped a second aggravated-assault charge and charges of simple assault, first-degree escape and grand theft.
Jake Dowling, the Highway Patrol trooper who was assaulted, called the sentence a fair one and said he hopes Two Bulls gets the help he needs.
The prosecutor in the case described Two Bulls as a "dangerous person" who should spend seven years in state prison.
Kelsey Weber, Pennington County deputy state's attorney, said that during the incident on State Highway 79, Two Bulls "dove across" the center console to take control of the trooper's vehicle and was "dragging him" before driving through multiple barriers and ultimately crashing into a creek. She also cited his past convictions for felony assault, making terroristic threats and illegally owning guns.
Dowling "could have sustained much more serious injuries," Weber said.
After the incident, police reports say, the right side of Dowling's head was bruised and swollen, he had a scratch above his left eye and an abrasion on his left knee.
Bryan Andersen, Two Bulls' defense lawyer, asked for a shorter sentence since his client already has to serve up to 20 months in a Nebraska prison.
Anderson said it made no sense for Two Bulls to flee from Dowling since he would have only been charged with violating his parole in Nebraska and that he eventually turned himself in to authorities in that state.
"His judgement was clouded by the alcohol," Anderson said, adding that it's "very lucky" that Dowling, Two Bulls or bystanders were not more seriously injured.
Two Bulls apologized for his actions.
"We're all fortunate" that things didn't end as "significantly more serious" as they could have, Pfeifle said.
Pfeifle said while he recognizes Two Bulls' need for addiction treatment, he's concerned about his violent criminal history.
The 2017 incident was just one more example of Two Bulls being combative and creating a dangerous situation, Pfeifle said before announcing his sentence.
Dowling pulled over the driver of a black Lexus on southbound S.D. 79 and Lower Spring Creek Road who was driving around 20 miles per hour on May 27, 2017, according to police reports. When he approached the car, he saw a female passenger and a fidgety, nervous-looking man — later identified as Two Bulls — in the driver’s seat.
He brought Two Bulls to his patrol vehicle and suspected he was providing a fake identity because he took a long time to provide a birth date, reports say. Dowling then handcuffed Two Bulls and put him in the front passenger seat of the patrol vehicle so he could verify Two Bulls' identity with the woman in the Lexus before writing a citation.
While speaking with the women, reports say, Two Bulls jumped into the driver's seat of the patrol vehicle and began driving away. Dowling twice jumped into the car to try to subdue Two Bulls, used a taser on him and shot at the car tires. But Two Bulls ultimately crashed the patrol vehicle, exited it and then escaped with the woman in the Lexus.
Dowling, who attended the sentencing with three other troopers, said he's "lucky" things didn't turn out worse. "Everything happened so fast," he said of how he decided to take action to stop Two Bulls from stealing his vehicle.
The trooper said he's not sure if there is a specific Highway Patrol protocol about whether or not troopers can leave people unattended in the front driver's seat of a patrol vehicle. He said decisions like that are typically left up to the discretion of the officer, and that Two Bulls was handcuffed but not under arrest at the time.