It was a good day not to die. Only the consummate professionalism of area law enforcement and a measure of New Year’s Day luck were to thank for that.
Bullets were flying in every direction on frigid Tuesday from a modest neighborhood home one block west of the sprawling Wal-Mart parking lot on North Lacrosse.
Inside the one-story house at 1210 Racine St., scary talk from Jordan Wounded Face earlier that morning had led his mother to call police, and when a responding female officer spoke with him through an open window, he replied with a few gunshots, sending the officer in retreat, authorities say. Over the course of the ensuing four-hour standoff, another 40 shots would emanate from the house as 30 officers surrounded it and locked down one of Rapid City’s busiest commercial corridors.
Throughout the ordeal, officers did a good job of keeping the community informed about developments.
The Pennington County Special Response Team — officers from the police department, sheriff’s office and state Highway Patrol — evacuated neighboring homes and closed Lacrosse from Interstate 90 to E. North Street. They shut down Anamosa Street from Wal-Mart to North Maple Street.
Officers tried to communicate with Wounded Face by telephone before broadcasting messages via loudspeaker. The impasse ended when tear gas and a flash-bang grenade were fired into the house to successfully induce surrender.
The situation appears to be a drug-related mental health crisis deftly handled — based on the 16 charges filed Thursday against Wounded Face. Law enforcement appropriately employed control, patience and tactics to successfully avoid loss of life.
"We're going to work on getting this individual the help he clearly needs," Rapid City Assistant Police Chief Don Hedrick said afterward.
For everyone paying attention, the crisis had appeared headed toward an inevitable lethal conclusion.
We’re fortunate to have officers who can fully assess a situation and act with measured responses. The circumstances on New Year’s differed fundamentally from those surrounding a recent fatal shooting near New Underwood. There on Nov. 30, according to Attorney General Marty Jackley, a spontaneous progression of events demanded a snap evaluation and response culminating in the death of a 19-year-old man at the hands of law enforcement. The teen had earlier threatened suicide.
Amid the rash of public shootings across the country, we all clamor for greater security. Trained officers using coordinated tactics remain the best option for properly assessing chaotic conditions before employing violent measures. We greatly appreciate their vigilant commitment to the public’s protection.
While the skills of officers were on display, even Assistant Chief Hedrick recognized the good fortune involved: "The actions of Mr. Wounded Face put innocent members of our community and local law enforcement into great risk as he fired bullets into the neighborhood and at officers. Law enforcement is often the point of intervention for individuals in crisis, and we recognize the need to work with the criminal justice system to encourage Wounded Face to get the mental health services he needs. It was remarkable that responding law enforcement officers were able to safely subdue an active shooter without him being seriously injured or killed."