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UPDATE: Rapid City man accused of brandishing knife, assaulting Whitewood officer who shot him
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UPDATE: Rapid City man accused of brandishing knife, assaulting Whitewood officer who shot him

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A Rapid City man is accused of brandishing a knife and assaulting the Whitewood police officer who shot him at a gas station earlier this month.

Jaris Kroetch, 41, was charged April 10 — the same day as the shooting — by Whitewood Police Chief Paul Witcraft with resisting arrest, possessing drug paraphernalia and simple assault against a law enforcement officer.

The Lawrence County State’s Attorney Office then charged Kroetch on April 17 with resisting arrest. Witcraft and officer Kannesha Nept witnessed Kroetch allegedly resisting arrest, according to the charging document. 

Witcraft also told the Journal that Kroetch brandished a knife, but investigators are still looking into whether he approached the officer with the weapon. 

State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald shared all public records related to Kroetch’s charges with the Journal. He said his office may file more charges once it receives the report from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigations, which is investigating the shooting along with the Highway Patrol and the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office. 

The DCI will publicly release a report on the details of the incident — and whether the attorney general finds the shooting was justified or not — around May 10.

I’m “still waiting for reports due to the serious nature of the action,” Fitzgerald said. “Other action could be taken.”

Kroetch was treated and released at Monument Health in Rapid City for serious but non-life threatening injuries he sustained from the shooting, Witcraft said. He remains out of jail on a personal recognizance bond and has an initial appearance scheduled for June 8, records show.

Kroetch was previously convicted in Pennington County of simple assault against a law enforcement officer in 2012 and 2014, records show. He was also convicted of aggravated eluding in 2012. Kroetch's lawyer said he can't comment on his pending charges. 

Witcraft said he's not releasing the officer's name since she's considered a victim under Marsy's Law. Other South Dakota officers who used lethal force after allegedly being attacked have invoked the victims rights law as well. 

The affidavit  

What follows is alleged in a probable cause affidavit for arrest by Whitewood police officer Joshua Bach:

Bach said he watched surveillance footage from the gas station and video from the patrol vehicle and body camera of the officer who shot Kroetch. 

Staff at the Sonset Station at 1322 Laurel Street called 911 around 11:15 a.m. on April 10 to report that a man was “acting erratically” by yelling at people entering and exiting the gas station.

An officer arrived, had Kroetch perform field sobriety tests and then attempted to arrest him. Video shows Kroetch slapping the handcuffs out of the officer’s hands and running away. Surveillance from the gas station then shows the officer using a stun gun on him.

Kroetch “was described as throwing the Whitewood police officer over his shoulders as he recovered from the Taser cycle,” Bach wrote. The officer “was described as directing (Kroetch) to the ground at gunpoint.” Kroetch was then “described as fleeing to his car.”

Officers requested a search warrant for Kroetch’s vehicle and DCI agents found marijuana paraphernalia inside, the affidavit says. Bach arrested Kroetch at 6 p.m. that day.

The affidavit does not describe the shooting nor mention any knife. But Witcraft told the Journal that once Kroetch went inside his car, he brandished a knife. 

Witcraft said the officer then shot Kroetch, hitting him in the right thigh. He received first aid and another officer arrived to apply a tourniquet. 

The officer was scraped up and bruised but otherwise OK, Witcraft said. He said the DCI will investigate whether Kroetch only brandished the knife or if he approached the officer with it as well.

Eyewitness account

Roger Albright, a 65-year-old from Whitewood, was checking out of a convenience store across the street from Sonset Station on the April 10 when the cashier pointed to a police car arriving at the scene. Albright, who spoke with the Journal on Wednesday morning, said he sat down at a bench across from Sonset Station where he watched what happened.

Albright said he saw the officer giving Kroetch a sobriety test and when he was ordered to stand on one leg he started to "wobble." The officer began to handcuff Kroetch but he "put up a fuss about it" and ran away.

Kroetch ran to his car and then between the gas pumps, Albright said. The officer used her stun gun on Kroetch and again tried to handcuff him. But they "scuffled," the officer ended up on the ground, and Kroetch pulled off the Taser barbs before running away again.

Kroetch grabbed two windshield cleaners from the water buckets they sit in and started swinging them around, Albright said. The officer tried to grab them but Kroetch ran to the driver's seat of his car.

Albright said he was facing the passenger side of the car so he couldn't see what happened from this point on. But he said he heard the officer ordering Kroetch out of the vehicle and then "all of a sudden I heard one shot."

Albright said an ambulance, sheriff's deputies, state troopers and Whitewood officers arrived and he was interviewed by an investigator about what he witnesses. 

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

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