A DNA test has confirmed that a man found dead inside a burnt-out Rapid City camper last month was the same person who had threatened to commit suicide.
The Rapid City Police Department identified the man as Joseph Lanoue, 54, a city resident. The Pennington County coroner has ruled his death on May 11 as a suicide, said police spokesman Brendyn Medina.
Shortly before 1 p.m. that day, police went to the 1700 block of 11th Street after receiving a report about a suicidal person who may be armed. At the scene, officers learned the person had entered a nearby camper with a gas canister.
The camper caught fire, and some homes in the neighborhood were evacuated. Wilson Elementary School, located several blocks away, was placed on secure status as a precautionary measure.
The fire spread to an outbuilding and a two-story residence, and as the camper burned, ammunition inside it exploded. Because authorities feared the person in the camper could still be armed, police on the scene drew their weapons and provided protection to firefighters battling the blaze.
After the fire was knocked down, the body of a man was found inside the camper.
Because of the extent of Lanoue’s injuries from the fire, a DNA test was needed to confirm his identity, Medina said.
Investigators found exploded and unexploded ammunition inside the camper, but didn't recover any firearms, he said.
According to a report released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide incidents have risen across the county from 1999 to 2016.
In South Dakota, suicides have gone up by 44.5 percent, compared with the nationwide rate of 25.4 percent. The biggest jump was seen in North Dakota, at 57.6 percent.