Native Sun: Deputy reached for gun, not taser, in fatal shooting
This story was written by Randall Howell and is copyright Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA -- The sheriff’s department deputy who fatally shot an Oglala Lakota man in a field near Rapid City was carrying a taser, but did not use it.

Instead he fired five fatal bullets into Christopher J. Capps, a 22-year-old college-bound student who lived in the same neighborhood where he died in a hail of bullets on May 2.

Despite the fact that his only weapon allegedly was a “sharp stick,” Capps was slain by Pennington County Sheriff’s Department deputy David Olson, who was temporarily suspended – a standard law enforcement practice during a shooting investigation.

Capps, the son of Jerry and Jaylene Capps, had lived with his family in the mobile home community for about a dozen years and had been accepted for enrollment at the University of South Dakota-Vermillion, where he had plans to study computer animation and biology, before his life was ended with up to five bullets from a “duty handgun” fired by Olson.

Meanwhile, the lethal confrontation with Capps has sparked an emotional response from the Native American community.

That response, ranging from anger to sadness, includes frustration about the use of lethal force by law enforcement when non-lethal means are available. Many point to an incident within weeks of the Capps case wherein law enforcement ended a confrontation at a Rapid City convenience store by using a taser to bring down what appeared to be an armed robbery suspect.

That’s the upshot of Native American reaction to the investigation results released by the state Division of Criminal Investigation, which released its findings last week through the office of state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

In what Jackley’s office referred to as an “incident report,” are the alleged details of what went down late Sunday afternoon, May 2, when Capps was killed by Olson, a nearly five-year veteran of the department.

Olson was “justified in firing his weapon” in the killing of Capps during an incident in a field to the east of Sunnyside Mobile Home Community, which is off Sturgis Road near Black Hawk, the report said.

In the report, Olson allegedly said that he “did not think he had time to draw it (the taser) because Capps was way too close.” He also said that Capps’ was “roaring” as he went by Darrell Schribner, yelling at the deputy: “I’m going to kill you!”

That, despite the incident report’s further confirmation that Capps was approaching Olson after the young man had stopped running northeast, had turned around and, initially, was walking toward the deputy from a point near railroad tracks – tracks that are well into the field in which the fatal shooting occurred.

The distance is such that Olson told investigators that he watched Capps, who was headed toward a man that had been chasing him, break stride, bend down and, with his right hand, “picks up something.”

Olson’s account indicates that Capps’ attention – to that point – had been focused on the man pursuing him, Scribner, 48, also of the mobile home community. When it shifted to Olson, Scribner said he heard the deputy shout “drop the weapon” to Capps three times before telling the young man that he was “going to shoot.” Scribner said that he thought Olson fired only three times.

The deputy told investigators that he identified himself by allegedly shouting “Sheriff’s Office!”

Then, Olson allegedly yelled at Capps to “Stop, go to the ground!” Olson already had his pistol pointed at Capps when he ordered the young man to the ground, the report said.

The deputy also told investigators that he estimated Scribner and Capps, who were just beyond a rise in the field, were from 60-70 feet apart when they first came into Olson’s view. The incident report does not indicate the distance between Capps and Olson at the time, however.

Olson told investigators that Capps was “somewhere between 12-20 feet away” when he fired his first round into him, followed by four more.

Olson told investigators that he “believes he fired four rounds at Capps. An examination of the “duty handgun,” however, indicated that the deputy had discharged “five rounds from one duty (bullet) magazine” at Capps.

“The autopsy revealed that Capps was struck by five bullets from Olson’s handgun,” the report released by the attorney general’s office said. “Two rounds were recovered from Capps’ body.” The forensic pathologist, Don Habbe, determined that Capps’s blood alcohol content level and drug-use level were negative.

Technicians told investigators that they found two “spent rounds directly underneath Capps’ clothing” where he had fallen to the ground. They also reported four “spent (bullet) casings” about 14 feet from Capps’ body. In addition, technicians recovered “a piece of driftwood” about 6-8 inches long with a sharp point at one end that was “on the ground next to Capps’ body.”

In the report, Olson said he first observed Capps in a “fast-paced walk” toward his pursuer, Schribner. After the deputy, who was in full uniform “in full daylight,” identified himself and ordered Capps to the ground, Olson said the young man’s attention shifted to him.

Olson told investigators that Capps then “starts running towards him,” the report said.

“Capps is closing the distance hard and fast” by that time, the report stated.

Olson told investigators he could see “what he believes is a silver-colored knife, about 4-6 inches long in Capps’ right hand.”

DCI special agent John Buszko said, in the report, that Olson “feared Capps would cut him up” and that if he “did not take action, Scribner would have been seriously injured” by the Oglala Lakota man.

After the fatal shooting, Capps was taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His funeral services were Friday, May 7. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Rapid City.

Meanwhile, the incident that resulted in Capps’ fatal shooting had started earlier that Sunday afternoon, when Scribner and his wife, Tammy, learned from several teenagers that their daughter’s boyfriend had been involved in an assault. Scribner told investigators that the family, including his teenage daughter, went to the juvenile’s mobile home, where he reported seeing an injured male teenager “lying on his back crying with visible blood” on him.

Scribner said he was told that “an adult male wearing a white shirt” had allegedly assaulted the 15-year-old and then fled.

Scribner, acknowledging he was angry over the alleged assault, decided to give chase and, in a move to cut off the suspect, drove to railroad tracks near a bridge on the southeast side of the mobile home community.

That’s where they first spotted Capps, according to the report. And that’s when some taunting by both Scribners began, the report said. That’s also when Capps allegedly turned and ran into the field. Scribner said he gave chase, intending to “beat his (Capps’) ass” for the alleged assault on the teenager.

“You are a big man, you got to pick up a rock,” Scribner said he yelled at Capps as part of the taunting, according to the report. He also told investigators that as Capps went by him, he saw “a sharpened stick” instead of what he had believed was a rock.

According to the report, the juvenile who allegedly was assaulted was riding bicycles in the community with two friends. It indicated that Capps’ allegedly pushed one of the juveniles off his bike. An apparent remark from Capps, according to the juvenile, resulted in a retort and a push.

The juvenile responded, though during the investigation the juvenile allegedly acknowledged that he was “riding his bike around Capps for some unknown reason.”

“The juvenile then punched Capps in the face, possibly breaking/chipping” one of his teeth, the report said. A scuffle ensued.

A second juvenile said that Capps’ then told him that he (Capps) “was going to kill him” and then “began to choke him.” That juvenile then hit Capps’ with a bicycle helmet, pushed him and kicked him.

The third juvenile then ran to get his father, the report said. And Capps apparently ran, traveling eastbound along the railroad tracks.

Moments later, Capps was on the ground, dead.

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