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Unanswered questions remain a month after Rapid City police shoot woman

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Investigators process the scene of a shooting where two Rapid City officers shot at a 31-year-old woman in a vehicle on Terra Street in southeast Rapid City May 31.

One month after Rapid City police officers shot and injured a woman during a failed traffic stop, there are a number of questions that have gone unanswered about the investigation, which the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation is conducting. 

In the early morning hours of May 31, RCPD officers attempted to stop a vehicle in the Lacrosse and Waterloo streets area for an equipment violation. After the vehicle slowed but did not stop, a passenger jumped out and the driver threw something out of the window, Police Chief Don Hedrick told reporters near the scene during a press conference just hours after the shooting. 

Hedrick said officers attempted to conduct a tactical vehicle intervention to cause the vehicle to spin out, which failed. The vehicle continued to Terra Street at Terra Mobile Home Estates on South Valley Drive where the shooting occurred. According to the RCPD, the 31-year-old woman attempted to drive at an officer, who was outside of his car. She was shot multiple times. One window showed bullet holes and another shattered completely.

It is unclear if one or two officers fired their weapons, but Brendyn Medina told the Journal a week after the shooting only one officer was directly involved. One officer returned to work the next day and the other returned on June 6.

The morning of the shooting, the RCPD turned the scene over to the Pennington County Sheriff's Office until DCI arrived and began its investigation — a procedure the department has said is standard for shootings involving an officer.

Since DCI began its investigation, status updates have been vague. The agency has not released the woman's name, and her condition remains murky. She was transported to the hospital, but it’s unclear if she is still there, if she's alive or if she's in custody. 

Until Tuesday, the media contact for DCI was Tim Bormann, former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s Chief of Staff. After multiple attempts to get in touch with Bormann, he spoke to the Journal a week after the shooting and said the investigation was ongoing.

He said the last he had heard the woman was stable, but still in the hospital. He said he would check with investigators about releasing the woman’s name and find out her condition. Bormann also said he would speak with investigators about the status of the investigation, which he said was ongoing. He indicated a 30-day timeline from start to finish is typical.

Thursday marked 30 days since the shooting. Since interim Attorney General Mark Vargo removed Bormann and David Natvig, former director of DCI, on Tuesday, South Dakota Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan has stepped in to help the Attorney General with media questions.

The Journal spoke with Mangan and asked for updates on the status of the investigation, including the name and condition of the woman, if any charges have been brought against the woman or any officers, how many officers are being investigated, if the investigation is complete, when investigators expect it will conclude, and if DCI will release the investigation report when it is complete.

After speaking with the Attorney General, Mangan provided the following statement.

“This remains an ongoing investigation. A third agency will eventually be asked to review and assess the investigation and findings,” Mangan said.

Mangan did not clarify which agency would review the investigation or if reviews are standard. He also declined to clarify why the woman’s name and condition is being withheld.

“At this time, the investigation is ongoing and there is nothing else we can release. The Attorney General just started this week and the third agency has not yet been determined,” Mangan wrote.

— Contact Shalom Baer Gee at sgee@rapidcityjournal.com — 

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