After nearly a month-long investigation, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation said Friday that Rapid City Police Officer Anthony Meirose was justified in "firing his weapon and using lethal force" when he shot and killed Allen Locke last month.
Key findings included that witnesses corroborated the officer's report that Locke had a knife and charged him; that Locke was highly intoxicated and had several drugs in his system; and that prior to being shot, Locke had stated "it's a good day to die."
Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris on Friday said the killing of Locke, which happened in the kitchen of a small home reportedly while several other people were present, ultimately resulted from a "suicide by cop" decision on Locke's part.
Attorney General Marty Jackley released the DCI's synopsis of the Dec. 20 shooting on Friday. The Pennington County Sheriff's Office took control of the scene shortly after the shooting at a home in the 500 block of Paha Sapa Road. The investigation was handled by DCI.
Jegeris called Locke's death "tragic." He said the department sends its condolences to the Locke family.
"It was a tragic and devastating situation for everybody involved. It was extremely dangerous considering that there were women and children present," Jegeris said.
Locke's family remains focused on healing and maintaining peaceful relations at this time, according to Chase Iron Eyes of Bismarck, N.D., who spoke with the family after DCI released the report.
"They are deeply saddened and very disappointed," Iron Eyes said.
During its investigation, DCI interviewed both Meirose and two adult female witnesses who were in the home in the 500 block of Paha Sapa Road, according the DCI shooting summary. Statements from Meirose and witnesses inside the house were consistent and supported by the shooting scene investigation.
Meirose was dispatched on a call that day to remove Locke, 30, from the home. After being invited in, Meirose identified Locke sitting on the kitchen floor with a steak knife in his hand.
Locke stood up and said "It's a good day to die," before advancing toward Meirose. The officer then drew his police-issued handgun and commanded Locke several times to drop the knife.
Ignoring the officer's commands to "put it down," Locke advanced toward Meirose in a fighting stance.
Meirose told investigators that he believed his life and the lives of the others in the house were in danger.
Locke was within 3 to 4 feet of Meirose, with the knife raised when the officer fired his handgun five times, according to one witness.
Several other officers arrived on the scene a short time later and began to perform first aid on Locke until Emergency Medical Services arrived. Locke was later pronounced dead at Rapid City Regional Hospital.
"It is clear to me that this was an incident of suicide by cop," Jegeris said. "Suicide by cop is an intentional act with the goal of provoking a lethal response."
Iron Eyes said there are discrepancies between DCI's report and what the witnesses told him. He confirmed they said that Locke had a knife in his hand, but no one mentioned him raising the knife above his head.
Iron Eyes said DCI's findings were as expected. State investigators have never condemned an officer's shooting of a Native American, he said.
Members of the region's Native American community will likely gather in the coming weeks to discuss the report, Iron Eyes said.
Toxicology results showed that Locke had marijuana, amphetamines and methamphetamine in his system at the time of the shooting. His blood alcohol content was .208, nearly three times the legal limit.
A drug screen and blood alcohol test conducted on Meirose had negative results.
Shortly after Locke's death, a Facebook posting attributed to Meirose was circulated in social media. The cartoon posting referenced the use of an Electronic Transfer Benefit card issued to people receiving public assistance as a source of identification.
Jegeris confirmed that the posting was addressed as a personnel matter with Meirose. Officers need to represent their profession in a highly professional manner, he said.
"We took appropriate action to address it department-wide," Jegeris said. "The content has no reflection on the way the officer acted in this situation or at any other time."
Meirose returned to active duty on Dec. 31, Jegeris said.
"I'm thankful to all the police department officers who take risks everyday to protect our community," Jegeris said. Using deadly force is clearly one of the toughest decisions an officer has to make, he said.
"None of us ever come to work expecting to be the target of homicidal behavior, but it is an unfortunate aspect of our everyday world."