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Pine Ridge homicide suspect turns himself in at Nebraska police station
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Pine Ridge homicide suspect turns himself in at Nebraska police station

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A Pine Ridge homicide suspect was arrested in Chadron, Nebraska, after he stopped by the police station to ask if he had any warrants since people told him his name had been in the news.

Phillip Wayne Pond, 38, was arrested Feb. 15 by Chadron officers who knew he had a federal arrest warrant for voluntary manslaughter.

Pond is accused of shooting Justin "Ohitika" Little Hawk “upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion” on Nov. 22, 2020, in Pine Ridge, according to his criminal complaint. Little Hawk died the next month at a Colorado hospital.

Little Hawk, 40, also went by Thomas Leroy Hoof and Tony Weston, according to an affidavit signed by an FBI agent.

Pond entered the Chadron police station the evening of Feb. 15 to ask if there were any warrants out for his arrest since he had been told by others that his name was in the news, according to Acting Police Chief Rick Hickstein.

Officers told him about the arrest warrant and Pond decided to peacefully turn himself in, Hickstein said.

Pond was booked into the Pennington County Jail the next day and made his initial appearance at the federal court in Rapid City on Feb. 17.

His case was unsealed Feb. 18 and Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann ordered him to be detained pre-trial the next day.

What follows is alleged in the affidavit:

Little Hawk was airlifted to the Rapid City emergency room after being shot in the left shoulder in the North Ridge housing area of Pine Ridge on Nov. 22, 2020.

A woman told Oglala Sioux officers that her grandsons, Mahpiya Arapaho and Emelio Esparza, called her to say they were with Little Hawk in his car when they pulled into the housing area. They said Pond shot Little Hawk after they got into a fight.

The agent and a victim specialist went to Monument Health, where Little Hawk was immediately taken into the operating room. The agent took photographs of Little Hawk’s wound but wasn’t able to speak with him since he was intubated.

An Oglala Sioux captain interviewed Arapaho the next day. Arapaho said he, Esparza and Little Hawk had pulled into the North Ridge Housing area and Pond got into the rear driver-side seat as Little Hawk began to turn the car around. 

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Pond and Little Hawk began to argue and everyone got out of the car except Pond, Arapaho said.

He said the pair continued to argue and Pond, still sitting inside the car, eventually shot Little Hawk. 

Arapaho said he didn’t know where Pond had concealed the gun when he got into the car, but saw him shoot Little Hawk with a two-foot-long firearm. He said he didn’t know why Pond and Little Hawk were arguing.

Little Hawk was eventually transferred from Monument Health to the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, where he died on Dec. 11, 2020, his obituary says.

His autopsy found he died from complications following a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the affidavit.

The agent interviewed one of Little Hawk’s friends on Jan. 7 who said he spoke with Little Hawk soon after he was transferred to Colorado. The man said Little Hawk had trouble remembering what happened before the shooting but remembers it was Pond who shot him.

Little Hawk described having a spiritual experience after being shot and said he decided to forgive Pond after speaking with the Creator, the friend said.

The Oglala Sioux captain interviewed Lashawn Poor Bear on Jan. 12 who said her mother told her that the night before Little Hawk was shot, Pond and a friend came to her house looking for Little Hawk.

Lashawn said her mother told her that Pond and the friend saw a vehicle arrive that they thought belonged to Little Hawk. The pair then “took a position like they were going to shoot” the person, the affidavit says.

The pair ended up not shooting the person, who was not Little Hawk, Lashawn said. Lashawn said she didn’t witness any of this herself but she saw Pond’s friend had a gun later that night.

Lashawn also explained that Little Hawk had been dating her sister, Adaynia. She said Pond sent Adaynia a Facebook message — later shown to the captain — saying that the shooting was an accident.

Lashawn said she and Adaynia met Pond after the shooting — the affidavit does not say when — in a field. She said they found Pond crying, saying he and Little Hawk were fighting over the gun and he didn’t mean to pull the trigger.

She said Pond, who had an unloaded gun with him, was suicidal but they didn’t let him into their house because they thought Little Hawk’s “crew” would be looking for Pond, and there were children in the home.

Pond then stopped by her house in early January, Lashawn said. He again started to cry, saying he didn’t mean to pull the trigger when he and Little Hawk were fighting over the gun. Pond left after saying “there were people looking for him.”

Pond will go to trial on April 27 unless he reaches a plea deal by April 9.

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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