Rapid City Mayor on Police Killing of American Indian: “I Want Our Officers to Know We Have Their Backs”

Allen Locke, 30, was killed by Rapid City police officer Saturday evening who fired up to five shots

Allen Locke, 30, was killed by Rapid City police officer Saturday evening who fired up to five shots

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA—Even before an investigation is completed, the mayor of Rapid City told Native News Online on Christmas Eve morning, he does not feel Saturday evening’s killing of American Indian Allen Locke, 22, by a Rapid City police officer was racially motivated.

The officer involved, Anthony (Tony) Meirose, has been gone on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. The paid leave is a standard practice all across America when an officer kills a citizen. Meirose has been with the police department since July 2013.

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker

“I want our officers to know we have their backs,” said Mayor Sam Kooiker, who is in his second term as mayor of Rapid City. “There is no indication that this was about race.

Many American Indians in Rapid City would dispute the city’s mayor opinion.

“We have had many situations of police brutality against American Indians in Rapid City,” said former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer, who attended a meeting with Mayor Kooiker on Monday, two days after Locke was killed.

In Saturday’s killing, the police maintain Locke approached Officer Meirose with a knife.

Therefore, the police department and Mayor Kooiker have implied the killing was justified.

“We should distinguish this situation from other parts of the country,” alluding to what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York where Caucasian police officers killed African American men,” Mayor Kooiker told Native News Online. “It is unfair to draw parallels between what happened elsewhere and what happened here.”

“It ignores the positive things we have done here,” he continued, as he cited four areas he feels Rapid City has made progress recently.

The mayor cited the polling places at Lakota Homes, a neighborhood which is predominately populated by American Indians in the city’s north side. The installation of the polling place there has increased the number of American Indians voting, said the mayor.

Ironically, the Lakota Homes section of town is where Locke met his tragic death.

Mayor Kooiker mentioned how the Rapid City Human Relations Commission was reconstituted this past year. The Human Relations Commission is a body of city government that handles discrimination cases.

The mayor also referenced the city’s renewed interest in the American Disability Act as the city on its track to progress.

The last thing he is proud of his choice of Lt. Elias Diaz to be the police chief, who spent time growing up on an Indian reservation. While he is proud of his pick, the City Council rejected the mayor’s choice as being too inexperienced to be the police chief and ultimately did not confirm Diaz, but instead installed the current Police Chief Karl Jegeris.

Also at the Monday meeting beside Mayor Kooiker and Brewer were Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux) and Cody Hall (Cheyenne River Sioux). The meeting was called at their request because they wanted to know the circumstances surrounding the killing of Locke.

The mayor told Native News Online the meeting was positive and wants a dialogue to continue between his office and Native representatives.

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