After a spate of recent shootings, the Rapid City Police Department weighed in on an upsurge in gun violence in the city that left four dead and three injured after a total of eight shootings.
RCPD Captain James Johns said the city had had enough and pointed to the lack of leadership and accountability of the city’s youth, as well as the influence of a resurgence of violent gangs.
“We’re not going to put up with this. I think the good citizens of Rapid City have had enough, and we’re just not going to tolerate this level of violence in our community,” Johns said.
The majority of shootings with named victims and suspects have involved young people. On August 17, a miner was shot and injured. Law enforcement has named 17-year-old Robert Yellow Bird of Sioux Falls as a suspect.
Yellow Bird, Rochelle Janis, 15, of Rapid City and Chase Quick Bear, 20, were named as persons of interest in the deadliest shooting, which claimed the life of Joseph Standing Bear, 29, of Norris and Petan Milk, 37, of Rapid City, on Aug. 20 at Knollwood Heights Apartments on Surfwood Drive.
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Yellow Bird, Quick Bear and a third person, 40-year-old Benita Cisneros – the suspected fleeing driver – were arrested. Janis is still missing. Quick Bear was charged against him in Pennington County Court with aiding and abetting aggravated assault Aug. 17 in the 1300 block of Wood Avenue, where the city-county Special Response Team issued a search warrant on August 21 looking for one of the suspects. in the shoot. Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue said the incident was gang-related.
The RCPD said the August 20 deaths were also likely gang-related. Milk and Standing Bear’s social media indicates involvement with The Boyz, tagged TBZ, which featured on both of their accounts. Johns said the gangs in Rapid City aren’t as organized and don’t follow the hierarchy of traditional gangs.
Johns said the alarming element of young people involved in violence can be attributed to the pandemic and a lack of accountability, particularly in South Dakota’s juvenile justice system, which he called “broken”. .
“There have been problems in being able to lock up dangerous minors. There have been issues with repeat offenders multiple times for the same crime, and I think the whole system is frustrated,” he said. “I think there are great people doing their best in the youth system. But right now, the juvenile system is part of the problem that leads us to these violent children.
Johns said the lack of accountability from adult role models and the state leads children to think they can get away with anything and leaves them open to being led down “a path they don’t don’t need to be”.
“These kids are looking for something and unfortunately these gangs are filling a void and it’s a sad road to follow,” Johns said. “Gangs step in when there’s a lack of leadership or a lack of role models and things like that.”
Johns said RCPD is working with community partners to fill that void. RCPD Community Engagement Specialist Tyler Read runs a substation at Knollwood Townhouses, which is located just across North Maple Avenue from Knollwood Heights Apartments and was the scene of the shooting death of Cory Old Horse , 32 years old, inside.
Read hosts bake sales and art projects with neighborhood kids, and the substation serves as a space for kids to socialize with friends, draw, and play video games.
Johns also noted his work with I Am Legend, Journey On, local churches and community groups.
” That is going to take time. This is one of the things that we face. We are talking about generational change, and that takes time,” he said.
Other shootings involving youths include a shooting at 4:55 p.m. on August 23 near a mall on New York Street. Police arrested Jace Runs Against, 19, of Rapid City, and Alize West, 21, of Rapid City. Police said the shooting began after a verbal argument that led West to allege he shot a gun at a man outside a business at 13 New York Street.
Kasey Arehart, 18, was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of discharging a firearm into a motor vehicle after allegedly shooting three teenagers in a vehicle on August 21 at the intersection of Lacrosse and Center streets. near the central states fairgrounds.
The shooting followed another report of gunfire near the fair the night before. No one was injured or arrested in this incident. The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to questions asking who is a suspect.
The sheriff’s office reduced the fair’s entry hours from closing at midnight to closing at 10 p.m. after the shootings, which both happened around midnight.
Other shootings may or may not have involved minors. On August 10, at Knollwood Townhomes on North Maple Avenue, Cory Old Horse, 32, of the interior was shot dead and another man was injured. No suspects were named, although the RCPD said it “has a number of identified people we have visited and spoken to”, but none of the interviews yielded any results. a clear picture of what happened.
“Everyone has their version of the truth,” Johns said. “And unfortunately, sometimes it’s our job to weed that out and define exactly what happened when everyone’s version of the truth is different.”
The RCPD is also awaiting the forensic results in this case.
The investigation into the shooting of Acey Morrison, 30, on Sunday morning in a mobile home on Country Road is ongoing, according to the latest PCSO reports. The PCSO did not announce any arrests, but said they identified the shooter and questioned him. Reports are unclear whether the shooter is the owner, who the PCSO says is cooperating.
Police are still asking for the public’s help in locating Janis.
“If there’s an element of retaliation to this, you don’t want a 15-year-old caught in the middle of this,” Johns said. “Unfortunately, she is a runaway. Unfortunately, she is part of this investigation and we are looking for her.
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