State Supreme Court finds Rapid City officer used excessive force against teenager

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The South Dakota Supreme Court has unanimously agreed that a Rapid City police officer who was responding to a report of a drive-by shooting used excessive force.

Officers Brandon Bassett and Andrew Kimbell with the Rapid City Police Department responded to a possible drive-by shooting at the unnamed juveniles’ apartment in the early morning hours of November 16, 2019.

Upon arriving at the apartment, Officer Bassett met the teen girl, who said the messages she had sent to her mother reporting the drive-by were a prank. Two others were present at the apartment – her younger brother and her boyfriend.

The opinion reads, “After Officer Kimbell reviewed the text messages N.A. had sent her mother, Officer Bassett then instructed N.A. to call her mother and to place the call on speakerphone. She was to tell her mother that her messages were a prank. N.A. complied, placing the call on speakerphone so Officer Bassett and Officer Kimbell could hear the conversation. During this initial conversation, N.A.’s mother asked to speak to law enforcement because she did not believe the texts were a prank. After the officers informed N.A.’s mother that the call was on speakerphone, she told the officers that her daughter had sent her some scary messages. She said the text messages stated that J.W.B. showed up at the apartment, resulting in a fight involving a gun. N.A.’s mother stated that she then called her son, N.A.’s younger brother, and he informed her that somebody was in the apartment, but he had stayed in his bedroom because he was scared. N.A. interrupted to deny that she had said somebody fired shots. When her mother disputed N.A.’s statement, N.A. yelled at her mother, saying her mother was drunk, and then hung up on her mother.”

After having the teen call her mother back, the girl engaged in a verbal disagreement with the officer. Officer Bassett – acting on his belief that she was interfering with the investigation – grabbed the teen, pulled her down onto a mattress on the floor, and handcuffed her. She allegedly kicked Officer Bassett during their altercation before he took her to his patrol car.

At the time, Officer Kimbell had escorted the juveniles’ boyfriend outside to call his parents.

The Supreme Court opinion writes, “N.A. was an unarmed, barefooted, teenage girl of average stature who made no verbal threats of violence or attempts to assault Officer Bassett before he grabbed her arm without warning. On the other hand, Officer Bassett was an armed, 240-pound adult male who, without warning, pulled N.A. down on to a mattress in a pitch-dark room. We acknowledge that officers often enter chaotic situations that can escalate to violence without notice; however, the video capturing this interaction reveals this was not one of those situations.”

The Supreme Court agreed that the teen’s behavior leading up to the incident was disrespectful, including her attitude towards the seriousness of her “prank” and verbal interactions with the officers.

“When added to the everyday stress and danger encountered by a law enforcement officer, such conduct could be frustrating. Yet “‘[t]he use of any force by officers simply because a suspect is argumentative, contentious, or vituperative’ is not to be condoned.”

A Pennington County circuit court had previously found that Officer Bassett had not used excessive force and therefore the girl’s claim that she reacted in self-defense was invalid. Now that the decision regarding excessive force has been reversed, the Supreme Court sent the case back to Pennington County to reevaluate the self-defense claim.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News