This story was written by Randall Howell and is copyright Native Sun News.
A 22-year-old Oglala Lakota man has died of wounds after being shot several times at close range by a Pennington County Sheriff´s Department deputy.
Christopher J. Capps of Sunnyside Mobile Home Community - a rural county neighborhood off N. Highway 79 (Sturgis Road) about three miles north of Rapid City, died at Rapid City Regional Hospital on Sunday evening, May 2, according to South Dakota Atty. Gen. Marty J. Jackley.
Capps, who allegedly was reaching into his pocket for his cell phone at the time of the shooting, was pronounced dead at the hospital after the incident, which happened about 7 p.m., according to a press statement released on May 2 by the sheriff´s department.
Pennington County Sheriff Don Holloway said that the deputy, David Olson, would be under administrative leave - a standard practice when a law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday, May 4.
"The cop murdered my son," said Jerry Capps, the young man´s father. "He (Christopher) was one of the best people you´d ever meet in your life. The world will be a worse place without that kid."
Capps´ father said that it was a continuing story in Rapid City, referring to the attempted cover-up of the facts involving shootings of Native Americans.
"I told the cop `you shot my son because he was brown,´" the father said. "There was no reason for this ... no reason at all."
Capps, who was in a field at the rear of the mobile home community on Everest Road when he was shot, had been pursued by the deputy as part the officer´s response to a report involving "ganging," an uncle, Darvis Weston, told NSN. Weston is a graduate of the police academy at Artesia, N.M. and worked as a police officer for many years.
Meanwhile, Capps´ parents were at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Tuesday making arrangements for their son´s funeral, which was tentatively scheduled for Friday through the auspices of Sioux Funeral Home at Pine Ridge and Serenity Springs Funeral Home in Rapid City.
South Dakota´s Division of Criminal Investigation has assumed responsibility for the resulting investigation of the sheriff´s deputy involved in the shooting, according to a statement from Jackley, who said that they were doing so at the request of the sheriff´s department.
The sheriff´s department said it received a report that an "unknown man" in his mid-twenties was assaulting a 15-year-old male. That triggered a response that eventually involved nearly a dozen law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians - most of whom remained at the scene until the early hours of Monday morning, according to witnesses in the community.
Two males were encountered by the deputy in a field behind the neighborhood - essentially, mobile home units No. 52, No. 53 and No. 54 - after the reported assault on a teenager. It was unclear from Jackley´s statement whether the males encountered by the deputy involved both Capps and the "assaulted" teenager.
The now-suspended deputy did confirm that one of the two males was Capps, who reportedly left the scene on a bike that had been ridden by a 15-year-old juvenile. Capps, a graduate of Stevens High School in Rapid City, lived with his parents - Jerry and Jaylene Capps - in the mobile home community. The Capps family has lived in the community for 12 years.
"He was very friendly and outgoing," said his mother. "People around here knew him."
Jackley stated that the "reported reason" for the officer´s actions (multiple shooting) was that the deputy "was acting in response to the suspect´s exhibiting (of) threatening and aggressive behavior" to the teenager and the deputy, who is nearly a five-year veteran of the Sheriff´s Department.
Again, it was unclear who "the individual" was that Jackley referred to in the statement - the so-called assault victim, a second teenager or whether officers reported that they were one in the same.
Meanwhile, on May 3, a community resident told NSN that she watched the shooting incident unfold. What she didn´t witness was that the college-bound Capps was being "ganged" by two unidentified people.
"He was being harassed and was coming to the deputy for protection," said Capps´ father. Law enforcement reports indicate that the Stevens High School graduate was fleeing the scene on a bicycle he reportedly had stolen.
"My son didn´t need a crappy $45 bike," the dead man´s father said on May 4. "He owns a $600 touring bike that he rides only in the summer months."
"Those kids were chasing him, harassing him, ganging him," said Jerry Capps. "He wanted help from the cop. That´s why he kept coming forward." One of the witnesses said that Capps was within six to seven feet of the deputy before the gunfire began.
"First, we saw the cop (sheriff´s deputy) running in the field," said the woman, who declined to be identified for the story. "He was chasing this guy across the field; then, the guy stopped and turned around and came running back toward the cop (sheriff´s deputy)."
The woman said that the deputy was "yelling" at the guy to stop and get down on the ground.
"But he kept coming toward him, running at first," said the woman, a former California resident. "This happens all the time in California and I moved here to get out of that kind of stuff."
As she described the situation, the gunfire - at least five shots - erupted when the young man was "within six to seven feet" of the deputy and "facing him (the deputy) straight on." The woman said it was still very light outdoors and she was out grilling on the deck of her home at the time.
"I didn´t recognize the guy who was shot," she said, indicating that the shooting went down beyond a six-board, north-south running, weathered, wooden fence and an east-west four-string, wire-and-post cross fence. "I´ve never seen him in the neighborhood."
Capps, who was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans at the time, wasn´t saying anything, but the deputy was "yelling to the guy to stop but he (Capps) wasn´t listening," she said, explaining that the young man came back up out of a "slight draw" just beyond the two fences. The draw to the northeast leads to a lower field set off by mature trees that run northwest by southeast.
About the only evidence at the scene on May 3 was a foot-long strip of yellow plastic crime-scene tape tied to the witness´ mobile home downspout. Only part of the black "Police ..." line could be seen buried in the knot that secured it as something of a symbol for Sunday evening´s shooting.
Meanwhile, Jackley´s office said that DCI plans to issue a case report and shooting summation to be reviewed by the attorney general, the county state´s attorney and the sheriff´s department.
That case report is expected to serve as "final determination" on the deputy´s actions (multiple shooting). No time frame was given regarding the case report, however.