PIERRE, S.D. – A man suspected of killing a South Dakota police officer and wounding two others during a gun battle died Wednesday at a hospital, the police chief said.
Rapid City Police Chief Steven Allender said Daniel Tiger, 22, died at Rapid City Regional Hospital. Allender did not give a cause of death for Tiger, who was from Rapid City.
Investigators say they still don't know why Tiger opened fire on the officers Tuesday. Allender said the officers approached Tiger and three of his acquaintances on a street in the western South Dakota city of about 63,000 people. They had received complaints about the group and determined a minor alcohol violation had been committed.
About 10 minutes into the confrontation, police said Tiger pulled a gun and fired on the officers. At least one officer fired back, striking the suspect, they said.
"From my view, those three officers are heroes," Allender told The Associated Press. "They were attacked by a guy spraying bullets in their direction. They reacted heroically. They returned fire."
Officer James Ryan McCandless, 28, was killed, while Officer Nick Armstrong, 27, was severely wounded and remained in critical condition Wednesday. A third officer shot, Tim Doyle, 39, was listed in fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Allender said some of the officers involved in the shootout are part of the department's street crimes unit. They had received reports the four people were causing problems, and officers saw them with a bottle of alcohol, the chief said.
"Abruptly, during this contact, the suspect pulled out a concealed gun and fired several rounds at them. It turned into a gun battle," Allender said.
He said the state Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the case, but he believes the three officers followed proper procedures. However, he said the department will analyze the incident to determine if anything should have been handled differently.
"On its face, it looks like a legitimate stop of people engaged in suspicious behavior and an illegal attack on police officers," he said.
The three officers were wearing protective vests, but apparently got shot outside the chest area protected by those vests, Allender said.
McCandless, a six-year veteran of the police force, had recently told Allender he wanted to be police chief when Allender retired. He also was engaged to be married and recently bought a house and a farm where he was raising horses and goats.
The officer was familiar to many in the area because he appeared on televised public service spots last year dealing with underage drinking and driving, burglary and other issues. McCandless came up with the idea for the project on his own, the chief said.
McCandless was the first Rapid City police officer killed in the line of duty since 1985. The city is on the edge of the Black Hills.
The slain officer grew up in Michigan and was the son of a retired law enforcement official, James McCandless, who worked as undersheriff in Midland County, Mich.
Reached by phone Wednesday morning, James McCandless said he and his wife planned to travel to Rapid City from Michigan as soon as possible. He declined to comment further.
Kraig Buell, a pastor at the Open Bible Christian Center in Rapid City, said he was on his way home from work Tuesday afternoon and came upon the shooting scene. The gunfire had occurred just moments earlier, and he said a few people were trying to help the fallen officers.
Buell said the group assisting officers had grown to about two dozen by the time he finished calling 911 for help. He said he saw one officer lying in the middle of the street in a pool of blood.
Another officer, who was on all fours and bleeding from the head, directed people to help the other officer in the middle of the street, the pastor said.
"I was glad to see how many people came rushing to their aid. That was reassuring to me," Buell told the AP, adding that he was frustrated that he couldn't do more to help. "I'm shocked. I'm still kind of numb from the whole thing."
At least one business and one home reported being hit by stray bullets after the shootout. Karen Gilson told KEVN-TV that a bullet went through her dining room window and hit a chair and table. She said her family was fine, but scared.
The Rapid City Journal reported that the owners of a video store told police that a bullet came through their wall and hit two DVD cases, but employees and customers were not hurt.
Allender said the Police Department's 142 members are heartbroken.
"We all know each other's names," the chief said. "It's very hard to accept, very hard to take for everyone."