Only minutes.

That’s all the time it took between Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies spotting a vehicle matching the description of a stolen vehicle and the radio call indicating the suspect, Rory Lynn Gunderman, was fatally wounded.

During that time, controlled chaos ensued.

We are amazed at the calm, collected demeanor the deputies displayed. As we listened, and have re-listened to the police radio traffic, we have noted the coordinated response from officers and first responders in multiple agencies. Only 14 minutes after dispatchers received notice from Wyoming law enforcement officers that the suspected stolen Ford F-350 crewcab pickup was possibly headed toward Lead, the chase began.

While deputies began the short pursuit, Lead Police officers prepared to set up spike strips at the edge of town. The pursuit never made it that far.

Gunderman, 31, of Sundance, Wyo., who reportedly stole the pickup at gunpoint the day before, turned into the Powder House Pass subdivision. Officers followed and coordinated the redeployment of spike strips as the road was a dead end.

Even when the foot pursuit began, deputies remained calm and methodical as they chased the man.

Shots fired.

Suspect down.

Dispatch called the ambulance, more officers were called in to help, a canine unit was sent enroute, LifeFlight was contacted checking on availability and sent, South Dakota Highway Patrol was ready to help — all this happened smoothly. There was certainly the sound of urgency in the officers’ voices, but never the sound of panic. Everyone had a job. Everyone knew what to do.

From the time the first deputy spotted the vehicle, to LifeFlight leaving the scene with Gunderman aboard, about an hour elapsed.

What began as a series of poor choices by Gunderman ended tragically for him, his family, and the officers forced to defend their lives.

In today’s national climate of criticism and second-guessing of every minute detail of the actions of a small fraction of law enforcement, it’s refreshing to see the public support shown to our local officers. We are fortunate to live in a community where respect is still a valued trait: Respect for the laws that govern us and for officers and first responders. It is not uncommon for us to know people on all sides of a difficult situation. They are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. We applaud the professional, rapid response of our public servants on Wednesday. We have a deep appreciation for the sacrifice our officers and emergency personnel are willing to make for us on a daily basis in order to protect and serve. Simply stated, thank you.

~ Black Hills Pioneer editorial board


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