Shooting victim’s family protests officer-involved shooting

Thursday, the family of the individual who died spoke out against what they call unnecessary...
Thursday, the family of the individual who died spoke out against what they call unnecessary force used by the Rapid City Police Department.(Nick Nelson)
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 7:33 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Wednesday, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office said that a March 26th officer involved shooting was justified.

Thursday, the family of the individual who died spoke out against what they call unnecessary force used by the Rapid City Police Department.

It’s the latest conflict between area law enforcement, and Rapid City’s indigenous and homeless communities. The family of Barney People’s Jr, and indigenous activists claim the RCPD used unreasonable violence in dealing with the victim.

The report from the AG’s Office says Peoples was in a bedroom in someone else’s home, and when police found him, they say he pointed a gun in the direction of officers, and that’s when officers fired several shots, hitting him multiple times.

Canupa Gluha Mani assembled the family of Barney People’s at Roosevelt Park Thursday, to express their anger over their relatives death, saying it’s part of a continued genocide against Indigenous Peoples by law enforcement.

He says the family is working to bring a lawsuit against the state of South Dakota over the matter, adding that People’s basic rights were violated.

“If I broke into your car, you would put me in jail for that. But this man, he was homeless, and he had a family here. Whatever the scenario was to lead up to his death, Rapid, you are to blame.”

The family had access to an audio recording of scanner traffic related to the shooting. It appeared to have made mention of a shotgun wound to the throat.

Assistant Chief of Police Scott Sitts said this was a miscommunication in the heat of the moment, and the Department of Criminal Investigation report of the incident was accurate.

“You saw that there was a shotgun prior to the officers opening the bedroom door, and there is a shotgun staged in front of the bedroom door,” Sitts said. “I think there’s miscommunication on the radio with several gunshots and an officer that was saying to someone else that there’s a shotgun and it got confused on the radio traffic.”

The family was shown the bodycam footage of the shooting, as were members of the press.

Police Chief Don Hedrick says he hopes he hopes this can provide clarity to the family, and the public.

“For us, it’s important to be open and transparent. When an incident like this occurs in our community it’s a tragedy, and I feel like we owe it to the public and the folks that we serve to have an accurate account of what occurred that day.”

Hedrick tells us that this is the first time the RCPD has let members of the media view their bodycam footage.

This is a rundown of what we saw:

The footage is in line with the DCI report, you can see officers speaking with the homeowner whose house that People’s was in. You see the k-9-unit enter, go upstairs, open a bedroom door where People’s was sitting on the ground, holding a scoped weapon up to the officers. It’s at this point the officers begin firing at People’s. This lasts for about two seconds, after which Peoples stands up as the shooting continues. He then falls over after being shot six times, it’s at this point the shooting stops.

We’ll keep you updated about the state of the potential lawsuit...that they say the family is pursuing.

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