By Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Editor
RAPID CITY – Less than two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the Rapid City community and spoke about measures to curb violence in Indian country, three Rapid City Police officers were shot by Daniel Tiger, a 22-year-old Native American male.
James Ryan McCandless, 28, died at the scene and Nick Armstrong, 27, later died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained during a shoot-out with the suspect. Tiger also died of gunshot wounds.
Another officer, Tim Doyle who was shot in the face during the armed altercation is currently recovering from his injuries.
According to the Rapid City Police Department on Aug. 2 at about 4:30 p.m., during what was termed a “routine stop” a Rapid City police officer patrolling on a bicycle came into contact with a group of four individuals at the intersection of Anamosa and Greenbriar streets.
Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender reported that there had been complaints of underage drinking in the area and an officer was responding to the call.
The initial conversation with the four individuals, who were on foot waiting at a bus stop, lasted a few minutes before two more officers in vehicles arrived on the scene.
At some point during the contact, a male suspect pulled a concealed pistol and fired multiple rounds at the officers. At least one of the officers returned fire. When the shooting stilled, three officers had been shot and the suspect was shot as well. All four men were transported to Rapid City Regional Hospital, Allender reported.
Robert Runnels was with his daughter Rachel on the phone when the shooting started. She along with a visiting tourist were the first responders to fallen police officer Candless.
“It was a normal afternoon on the phone with my daughter when the day changed in a flash. ‘Oh my god dad – their shooting,’ my daughter’s screams followed immediately by boom, boom, boom, boom, the close sound of a high powered hand gun rang out,” he wrote in an email to Native Sun News.
“I yelled back, ‘Who?’ Only to be answered by silence. I yelled again, ‘get outta there’ already knowing she wasn’t on the line. I called back but her phone only went to voice mail. It seemed like an eternity, she was in Rapid and I was at Pine Ridge, 100 miles away. During those 10 minutes or so my mind raced with thoughts of Columbine or the recent terrorist in Norway. Some maniac with a gun shooting, I thought my daughter may have been shot.”
When she finally did answer, all he could hear was his daughter screams as she cried uncontrollably to the sound of panic and chaos in the background drowned out by sirens.
“I too lost my composure still not knowing if she was OK. After several minutes she finally said it. ‘They shot three cops,’ she sobbed. ‘Who?’ I asked. ‘They were Native’s dad, they were Natives.’ Then she lost it again, my heart sank as I fought back the tears.”
His daughter then began to tell him how she had witnessed the shooting, seen people fleeing from the scene, including people who were involved in the incident. She saw the officer lying in a pool of blood on the ground and without thought to her own wellbeing or the wellbeing of her unborn child; she immediately went to help and performed CPR on the fallen officer until medics arrived.
According to other witnesses at the scene, gunshots flew in all directions; one entering a nearby Blockbusters store, one into a nearby home, one hit the local Church of God and one hit a nearby traffic sign.
The investigation is currently being handled by the state Division of Criminal Investigation who is trying to figure out what led to the shooting.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital, one of the officers, James Ryan McCandless was pronounced dead.
“McCandless was a six-year veteran of the Rapid City Police Department, came to RCPD from Michigan. He was recently engaged to be married, had purchased a new home, and in the past two years, he had obtained a Master’s degree in public administration,” Allender said in a report.
Rapid City celebrated the life of McCandless with a procession that started at Rapid City Regional Hospital, went through downtown Rapid City then on to the Civic Center where visitation took place from 1 till 4 p.m. Thousands of people lined the streets to show their respects. A public funeral to honor the fallen officer took place on Sunday Aug. 7 at the Civic Center.
The suspect, 22-year-old Daniel Tiger, who was shot at the scene of the altercation, died Wednesday Aug. 3, at Rapid City Regional Hospital.
According to Tom Poor Bear, Vice Chairman of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Tiger was buried in a private ceremony in Kyle on Saturday Aug. 6, attended by only close friends and family.
On Sunday Aug. 7, a second Rapid City Police Officer, Nick Armstrong died at Rapid City Regional Hospital as a result of his injuries from the Aug. 2 shooting.
“Armstrong was a two-year veteran of the RCPD, and was born and raised in Rapid City. Nick served as a police officer with the Spearfish Police Department for two years, before joining the RCPD in July 2009. He had been serving on the Street Crimes Unit since April of this year. He was patrolling on a bicycle when he was shot,” Allender said in a report.
“Officer Armstrong came from a family that was highly dedicated to serving the public; his father, Bill Armstrong, is a retired Captain with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, and one of his brothers is a firefighter.”
Allender recently honored Armstrong with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart medals for his heroic actions in the line of duty.
“Nick became a hero again, giving new life to many through the gift of organ donation,” Allender said.
The funeral for fallen Rapid City Police Officer Armstrong has been set for Thursday, Aug. 11.
There will be a public viewing at the Barnett Arena in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center at 10 a.m. on Thursday, with funeral services beginning at 11 a.m.
The newly elected mayor of Rapid City Sam Kooiker says the focus now turns to the families and healing the community.
According to Poor Bear, he visited with the mayor via phone met on Friday August 5 to discuss the incident and ways to avoid racial profiling and further violence.
“I spoke to the mayor over the phone and I said I really hope this doesn’t affect the racial profiling. He said he doesn’t want this incident to tarnish the relationship he has been building with the Rapid City Indian community,” Poor Bear said.
The last time an officer was shot in the line of duty was in 1916.
Three Indians were shot and killed in recent years by Rapid City police officers.
Holder’s visit coincided with the recently passed Indian Law and Order Act thatdeals with crime on Indian reservations and does not include crimes that happen within state jurisdiction.
(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at firstname.lastname@example.org)