I moved to Massachusetts earlier this month but continue to follow crime and courts news in Rapid City. Last week, as I was driving through the winding and wooded roads of Berkshire County, I thought about how the homicide rate in Rapid City has been down this year. There were seven last year, following two in 2016, and one this year.
Then yesterday, the Rapid City Police Department said a local resident who sustained life-threatening injuries in a shooting on Friday had died. The death of Nathan Graham, 43, has become Rapid City’s second homicide of the year.
Two teenage boys were arrested in the killing.
A 16-year-old from Black Hawk, Ross Johnson, is charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault with a handgun, according to Pennington County court records.
“Johnson brought a weapon to the victim’s home and made comments while displaying it to the victim,” said the prosecutor, Deputy State’s Attorney Sarah Morrison, recounting the statements she made in court during Johnson’s initial appearance Tuesday morning. “He then walked away, handed the weapon to a juvenile male and told him to shoot the victim.”
In a sworn statement submitted in court, police said Johnson and Graham got into a “physical altercation” before the shooting happened. The reason for the fight isn’t clear. Johnson was found at a home in Meade County the following day and brought to the juvenile detention center in Rapid City.
Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue set Johnson’s bond at $1 million, cash only.
Though Johnson is a minor, his charges have become public record because he is being tried as an adult. South Dakota law states that a minor who is at least 16 and is alleged to have committed a top-level felony — such as murder — should be tried as an adult.
The other suspect, who is 14, hasn’t been named.
According to the police statement, he went to the Public Safety Building on Sunday to turn himself in. He reportedly told investigators he shot at Graham twice with a semiautomatic pistol, which he got rid of at a nearby water reservoir.
Morrison said a juvenile suspect younger than 16 can be tried as an adult only if the court grants such a request from state prosecutors.
Given the confidential nature of juvenile cases, Morrison said she can’t comment on whether a person has been charged as a juvenile in Graham’s killing, or if prosecutors will make a request to transfer a juvenile case to adult court.
The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office filed the murder charge against Johnson after Graham was “declared brain dead” on Saturday though he remained on life support, police spokesman Brendyn Medina said. Graham’s family planned to take him off life support, but as of Tuesday afternoon, Medina didn’t know if it had already happened.
Police said Graham was found lying in the middle of the road near his home in north Rapid City. He had a gunshot wound to the head.