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Native Sun News: Fatal police shooting unites Indian community

The following story was written and reported by Richie Richards, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

A friend of Allen Locke at a vigil for the man who was killed by a police officer in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from Last Real Indians / Facebook

Police shooting unites Indian Community
Rumors circulate about death of Allen Locke
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY –– When the Native American citizens of Rapid City staged a rally against police brutality on Dec. 19, Allen Locke, 30, walked with them

Held in Memorial Park near the Civic Center, the marchers stood in unity and shouted the slogan, “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” The next evening, just after 6 p.m., Locke was shot dead by Rapid City Police Department Officer Anthony Meirose.

The Anti-Police Brutality March and Rally, was unfortunately scheduled during the Lakota Nation Invitational tournaments when South Dakota and surrounding states bring teams to showcase their hard work and dedication to the sports they’ve trained for throughout the year.

This protest, of about 100 people was held in conjunction with similar movements from around the country. The event happened in a peaceful manner and generated local media attention and reached a larger audience through social media and other online outlets.

According to a press conference conducted by RCPD Captain Dan Rud, on Sunday, Dec. 21, a call came in at 6:18 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 20 and Officer Meirose was first on scene, “Officer Meirose approached the house and while standing in the doorway, he was attacked by a male subject with a knife. The officer drew his weapon and shot the subject several times.”

Locke was transported to Rapid City Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead. No other occupants in the home were injured or required medical assistance.

Witnesses on the scene claim Mr. Locke did not have a knife in his hand but possibly a cell phone or sweet grass braid though this has not been confirmed. Locke has had previous incidents with law enforcement at this residence.

The investigation has been turned over to South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office for further review.

When asked by Native Sun News at the Press Conference on Sunday if Officer Meirose had other alternatives such as a Taser to protect himself besides a gun, Captain Rud replied, “Well, of course our officers are equipped with that. But from what we understand of the situation last night, there was no time for that. And there was not a viable option, Taser, OC spray, whatever. It was not a viable option…”

Captain Rud said the decision to shoot was a matter of timing. Their claim is that Officer Meirose did not have time to use a debilitating spray and/or Taser gun; in this case according to Rud, the only option was deadly force. One alternative might have been to wait until back up arrived, before acting alone to a previously known suspect.

Native Sun News asked Captain Rud if there were cultural sensitivity trainings conducted in the past, he confirmed that there had been but could not name a specific title for these trainings.

NSN and Rapid City resident Melaine Stoneman were the Native American representation present at the Press Conference.

Local and non-local Native American community members met near the Oyate Center in the Lakota Community Homes in North Rapid City for a prayer circle the following morning of the shooting. At this time community leaders held a prayer vigil to voice concerns and discuss healthy, constructive alternatives for Native American and Police relations.

Several Native American community leaders and members, including Robin Page, Kevin Killer, Eric Bringswhite and Sarah Eagle Heart spoke to the crowd about their experiences and began the process of open discussion. They collectively expressed the desire to host a public meeting in coming weeks to bring minds and hearts together for positive solutions.

The relationship between police and Native Americans dates back to the 1800’s in this area. This distrust for one another is deeply rooted. As survivors of cultural genocide and forced assimilative practices, many Native Americans have become resistant to police intervention by any means. It was the Army who rounded up the tribal groups and placed them on reservations and it was the police who kept them there.

The policing of our police is a heated subject. This has been the inspiration for the formation of many minority-based groups who wish to protect their community. This would include the American Indian Movement who formed in Minneapolis in response to police brutality of indigenous men and women living in urban environments.

AIM was a grass roots movement which involved education of police procedures. They also carried police scanners in the cars to mobilize to police activity. AIM’s early involvement helped the ones who were being harassed, beaten and incarcerated when other responses could have been utilized.

At approximately 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 22, Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker hosted a panel of three non-residents of Rapid City; including LNI Director Bryan Brewer Sr. and Anti-Police Brutality March and Rally organizers Chase Iron Eyes and Cody Hall. This meeting was behind closed doors while Native American community members and citizens of Rapid City waited angrily in the hall outside of the Mayor’s Office.

Although details of this two-hour meeting were vaguely shared with waiting citizens and family members of Allen Locke, the exact conversation is unknown. Though, it was acknowledged that Mayor Kooiker was interested in forming a group to address concerns from both sides.

Native Sun News was not welcomed into this discussion both by phone prior to the meeting and at the door.

Shortly following this closed door meeting, The Office of the Mayor issued a Press Release titled, MAYOR SAM KOOIKER SUPPORTS RAPID CITY POLICE REGARDING WEEKEND INCIDENT to which he states: “Regarding this weekend's incident, I fully support our Rapid City Police Department and I fully support our young officer who was put in a terrible situation. This is a tragedy for everyone involved…”

In the Press Release, Mayor Kooiker pleads for peace and acknowledges there may be individuals who wish to agitate the situation into something it is not.

Soon after this Press Release on Monday, organizers of the march and rally met with Rapid City residents and Locke’s family members. A fundraising effort was established at this time.

Examples of local programs include but are not limited to; Women Against Violence, Inc., Youth & Family Services, United Way of the Black Hills, Rural America Initiatives, Behavior Health Services, Human Relations Commission, Native Healing Program, Access to Recovery, Catholic Social Services, and Pennington County Victim’s Assistance, and any other program with an interest in helping families. These programs are pro-active and need to reach out in this time of need.

Many long-time Native American residents feel it is a time to put down the guns and protest signs and meet on equal terms. “We need to come together and discuss the past, present and future of RCPD in regards to the policing of North Rapid.,” one elder said, “Our kids live here, we don’t have the option of leaving.”

On Tuesday afternoon of Dec. 23, Native Sun News was granted a brief interview with Mayor Sam Kooiker at City Hall. It was at this time Mayor Kooiker confirmed it was not his office that called for the Monday morning panel meeting. It was the organizers of the anti-police brutality march who called for a sit-down discussion; while Rapid City residents and Allen Locke’s family sat in the hallway- feeling angry about being physically excluded.

Mayor Kooiker submitted the following statement for this article, “I support our Native American citizens who called for help and I want our officers to know we have their back when they’re acting pursuant to policy and protocol. Any death is tragic, and so would be the death of an officer.”

According to a statement released to limited media sources from Allen Locke’s family, they called for peace in our community and asked for privacy. Native Sun News did not approach them for an interview.

(Contact Richie Richards

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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