South Dakota AG clears Rapid City officer in May shooting


SIOUX FALLS (AP) – An investigation found that a Rapid City police officer was justified in shooting at a woman seven times as she backed her car into a police squad car during a May pursuit, South Dakota's attorney general said Friday.

Attorney General Mark Vargo called the shooting, which hospitalized 32-year-old Shania Watkins, a "tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situation.”

The Division of Criminal Investigation found that Watkins, a Rapid City resident, fled from police in her car after an officer attempted to pull her over during the early hours of May 31. After being pursued by several squad cars at speeds of up to 65 mph, Watkins stopped her car in a mobile home park.

The investigation found that as a police officer pulled a squad car up to Watkins' vehicle and commanded that she exit the car, she reversed her car into the squad car. The collision caused Watkins' car to stop.

The officer fired seven rounds through the passenger front door and window of Watkins' car, striking her multiple times, investigators wrote in their report.

The report concluded that the officer “believed they were in a situation in which Watkins could inflict serious injury or death and responded with deadly force.”

Watkins later told investigators that she was trying to drive home so that she would not receive a “tow bill after her potential arrest," according to the report. She also stated that “she had stopped the vehicle, placed it in park or neutral, and put the keys in her pocket,” as well as followed the officer's command to show her hands.

But the report claimed that video evidence from officers' body cameras conflicted with Watkins' statements. The Division of Criminal Investigation also found that she was under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana at the time of the pursuit.

Watkins has been charged with aggravated eluding, Vargo said, and further charges could be considered now that the investigation is complete.

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