RCPD lost their reports to the 1972 Flood – here’s how they’re still cracking the cold cases

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Police Department lost more than documents in the 1972 Flood that killed 238 people. They’ve partnered with the Journey Museum and Learning Center to try and recover lost history, cases and evidence.

The 1972 Flood took homes, a life, and even crime reports from the agency that lost an officer to desperate rescue efforts on that horrifying night.

“The police department was located at 10 Main Street, which is where the Cornerstone Rescue Mission is now,” explains Rapid City Police Department part-time detective Wayne Keefe. “In that particular building, we had so much silt and mud from all of the water being moved that it literally filled the basement of that building, leveled it off full of mud. Now, the unfortunate part that was all of our police records up to that date were in the basement of that building.”

72 Flood GraphicWith every report and piece of evidence destroyed, officers had to start investigations all over.

After recovering from the flood, RCPD worked to solve the lost cases, but some went cold.

Detective Keefe retired in 2014, but dedicates his time to uncovering details that had been buried when he was eight years old.

He started online, at “Newspapers.com, looking up stories from the scanned newspaper files and so forth. I actually found a bunch of the information I needed from the Mitchell newspaper,” he says. “They had a lot of similar stories in there, but that would give me names that then I would have to track those people down. They would start out saying, ‘Oh, that’s so long ago. I don’t remember.’ But all I had to do was give them a couple of different references, like, ‘At that point in time, you were working at this store, and here’s a person that I know you were working with,’ and the memories would come back just like yesterday.”

He eventually partnered with the Journey Museum and Learning Center in their efforts to verify fatalities, making sure that every possible story is commemorated.

“It’s still ongoing because this week I’m sure we are going to hear stories of people that maybe haven’t been recognized before,” says Journey Museum researcher Corey Christianson. “And so I feel like our our working partnership here will be ongoing.”

For more flood stories, click here.

Categories: 1972 Flood, Local News, South Dakota News