After being handcuffed during a traffic stop on State Highway 79 in May 2017, Joshua Two Bulls escaped by stealing a Highway Patrol car and fending off a trooper, taser shocks to the body and gunshots at car tires, court records allege.
Although the 41-year-old man was soon arrested by tribal police, he was released after eight hours and wasn't taken into custody at the Pennington County Jail until October of this year.
On Thursday, more than 1 1/2 years after fleeing from the state Highway Patrol trooper, Two Bulls pleaded no contest in state court to the charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, saying he was too intoxicated to remember the events that transpired that day. 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, the state will drop a second aggravated assault charge and charges of simple assault, first-degree escape and grand theft, said Bryan Andersen, Two Bulls' defense lawyer. Prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence Two Bulls to no more than seven years in prison for a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Jake Dowling, the Highway Patrol trooper assaulted by Two Bulls, described the incident to a deputy with the Pennington County Sheriff's Office, court records show. Most of the events also were captured by Dowling's patrol car camera.
Dowling pulled over the driver of a black Lexus on southbound SD 79 and Lower Spring Creek Road who was driving around 20 miles per hour at 7:34 p.m. on May 27, 2017. When he approached the car, he saw a fidgety, nervous-looking man in the driver’s seat and a woman, he told the deputy. He said he brought the man back to his patrol vehicle.
The trooper told the deputy that he suspected the driver was providing a fake identity because he took a long time to provide a birth date, and the video recorded the man providing a false name and birth date. Dowling said he took the man out of his vehicle, handcuffed him and put him back in the front passenger seat. The video records Dowling telling the man he's being detained so he can verify his identity before writing a citation.
Dowling then returned to the suspect's car and asked the woman who the man was, he told the deputy. She said Joshua Two Bulls.
The trooper then noticed that Two Bulls was jumping into the driver’s seat, he told the deputy. “What are you doing man?” he asked Two Bulls, the video showed.
Dowling opened the driver's door, jumped into the vehicle and hung on to Two Bulls as he began driving, he told the deputy. He said he wrestled Two Bulls as they went through a guardrail and into an embankment. The video shows the car also going through a barbed wire fence. Dowling said he jumped off the car when it was approaching a large tree. The video recorded the vehicle traveling at 25 mph.
He hit the ground and fired his weapon five or six times at one of the tires on the car, which stuck in the mud, he told the deputy. “Get out of the car, man!” the video recorded Dowling as yelling.
The trooper told the deputy that he re-entered the vehicle through the front passenger seat and wrestled with Two Bulls, who started to drive again. He said he twice struck Two Bulls in the torso with his taser, but it didn’t seem to affect him.
Dowling decided to jump out of his car again when he saw that Two Bulls was heading toward a bridge, he told the deputy. The car was moving at 20 mph at that time, the video shows.
After getting up, Dowling told the deputy he saw that Two Bulls had crashed into the creek, got out of the car, began running down the highway and yelled “go,” presumably at the woman in the vehicle he had been driving.
Dowling told the deputy that he saw a civilian with a handgun telling Two Bulls to “stop and get down.” The civilian later came to check on Dowling and told him Two Bulls had fled in a vehicle. Dowling then realized his weapon was missing.
The civilian, a semi truck driver, told an officer with the Rapid City Police Department that Dowling was dragged by the vehicle and the suspect came within inches of running him over. He told a deputy that he planned on detaining Two Bulls for law enforcement but backed away when the woman got out of the car and approached him. She then helped Two Bulls into the vehicle, and Two Bulls drove them away.
Once police arrived on the scene, they found six bullet casings and Dowling's weapon, police reports say. Dowling's uniform was "soiled with dirt and grass stains" and he had taser wires wrapped around his legs. The right side of his head was bruised and swollen, he had a scratch above his left eye and an abrasion on his left knee.
Dowling's vehicle had "significant damage" after several pieces had broken off, and a guardrail and barbed wire fence were destroyed, the reports say.
Police learned that Two Bulls had a warrant out of Nebraska and was considered "armed and dangerous," police reports say. They also learned that after the pair escaped from Dowling, they were arrested by an officer with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the woman for a DUI and Two Bulls for intoxication and alcohol possession. However Two Bulls, who was found with his handcuffs on, was let go after eight hours.
Tony Mangan, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said because Two Bulls' case is ongoing the Highway Patrol didn't want to answer a question about whether it's within or against protocol to leave a handcuffed person alone in the front passenger seat of a patrol vehicle.
Two Bulls was booked into the Pennington County Jail with a $25,000 cash-only bond on Oct. 17, 2018, court records show. He was transferred from a prison in Nebraska, where he is serving time for illegally owning a firearm.
He has previous convictions for making terrorist threats and attempting to assault a law enforcement officer, according to Nebraska's Department of Corrections website.
Two Bulls is scheduled to be sentenced at 11 a.m. on Jan. 10.