Spearfish Police Department defends officer after abuse of power allegations

On Thursday, the Spearfish Police Department held a press conference defending the actions of an officer during an incident in June involving a Spearfish woman.

SPEARFISH, S.D. — In a press conference Thursday morning, the Spearfish Police Department defended the actions of an officer accused by a local Spearfish mother of abusing his power.

Officer Hunter Bradley was accused by Ashley Donarski of Spearfish of abusing his power while arresting her during an incident that occurred on June 18. The accusation lead to threats on Facebook against Bradley.

On the aforementioned date, police had just responded to a complaint call from Donarski, where she spoke to police about a separate incident near apartment buildings around the intersection of Heritage Drive and Colorado Boulevard. After police left the scene, she received a call saying that her child had fallen out of a second story window and needed help.

Police say that Donarski pulled around a patrol vehicle on the east side of Spearfish to pass them at a high rate of speed.

But, according to Donarski’s Facebook page, she pulled up asking the officers for help after receiving the call, trying to relay what had happened to her son.  The officers pursued Donarski, saying she reached speeds as high as 80 mph in a 45 mph zone and 60 mph in a 25 mph zone.

The pursuit ended at Donarski’s home at Sandstone Hills. Police say that after the pursuit, she got out of her vehicle and explained her son’s accident to Officer Bradley.

“Officer Bradley shifted immediately from pursuit mode into Officer-EMT mode,” said Pat Rotert, the Public Safety Director for the City of Spearfish. “He is also an EMT. While gloving up, he is the one that called for an ambulance. In this case, nobody had called for an ambulance at that point.”

Once an ambulance arrived and her son was cleared by EMTs, Donarski was placed under arrest by Officer Bradley for reckless driving and taken to Lawrence County Jail. While the department says the arrest was justified, officials say the situation could have been handled differently.

“In this particular case, the officer made the decision to make a custodial arrest,” Rotert said. “In our after-action review, that’s one of the things that we identified that we wanted to do better. We felt that, yes, you can do this, but let’s take into account the mitigating circumstances of the injury (to Donarski’s son).”

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Donarski says that during her arrest, Officer Bradley ignored her pleas that she couldn’t breathe while having panic attacks and wouldn’t loosen her handcuffs that she claimed were too tight.

However, police say the it’s clear in the body camera footage, which will be released to the public at a later time, that the restraints weren’t too tight.

Police say they used a handcuffs with chains on Donarski, which is department policy for transporting those arrested for longer distances.

Rotert also went on to say that a citation arrest probably should have been issued instead of Donarski being arrested. He says that the department takes ownership of how it could be better. Spearfish Police Chief Curtis Jacobs says that although Officer Bradley’s actions weren’t immoral or illegal, they were a little bit insensitive when you take in the totality of the entire incident.

Donarksi has since started a petition which calls for Officer Bradley to lose his job, but police say no action will be taken to remove the officer from duty.

The incident has since been resolved in court, but police say they’ve made attempts to sit down with Donarski to discuss their actions and how they can be better. Police say that Donarski hasn’t filed a formal complaint against Officer Bradley.

We’ve reached out to Donarski for comment, but have yet to receive a response.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News