Whitewood officer deemed justified in shooting

WHITEWOOD — Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald said the Whitewood police officer who fired her duty weapon in the line of duty was justified in doing so.

Whitewood Police Chief Paul Witcraft said that on Dec. 28, 2019, Kannesha Nept, with the Whitewood Police Department, attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a Honda Prelude for no taillights at approximately 5:40 p.m. at the intersection of Laurel and Sherman streets.

The driver, later identified as Hunter Baker, 24, of Spearfish, failed to stop and led the officer at a high rate of speed along Pine Street to Filmore Street and then to U.S. Highway 34.

Nept conducted a pit maneuver – a tactical maneuver used to turn a suspect vehicle sideways, causing the driver to lose control and stop, once crossing over Interstate 90. Baker’s vehicle spun out of control near the intersection of Highway 34 and Whitewood Valley Road. 

Baker and Nept ultimately ensued in a scuffle. During this time, Nept fired a single shot from her 9mm Glock duty weapon. No one was injured by the shot.

Baker broke contact and fled the scene. Nept remained with the vehicle along with the lone passenger. Baker was later found by other law enforcement officers near the scene. He, along with the passenger, Spring Brock, 21, of Spearfish, were arrested without further incident.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation of the incident.

“The officer was justified in my opinion in firing her weapon, because she was in fear of her safety,” Fitzgerald said. 

He declined further comment as the case remains active.

The Attorney General’s Office, which typically releases thorough reports on police involved shootings, declined to comment on the Whitewood incident as it did not meet the criteria required for its involvement.

“The bar which must be passed in order to rise to the definition of Officer Involved Shooting is that an individual is struck by the bullet fired,” said Tim Bormann, chief of staff for the attorney general. “In an instance where the officer did not target an … individual and no one was struck it is a matter of the Law Enforcement Officer discharging their weapon while on duty which is a matter of their agency to investigate.”

Nept has been a member of the Whitewood Police Department since Dec. 11, 2019. She has been a certified police officer for about four years, Witcraft said.  

Witcraft said he and the Whitewood officers discussed the incident and conducted a policy review following the incident. 

“She did a good job,” Witcraft said. “She’s a good officer.” 

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