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Man gets extended probation in Chamberlain chase, football field shooting

CHAMBERLAIN--A Pukwana man who attempted to shoot and kill himself near a high school football game last fall was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years probation but no additional jail time.

The city of Chamberlain's water tower. (Daily Republic file photo)
The city of Chamberlain's water tower. (Daily Republic file photo)

CHAMBERLAIN-A Pukwana man who attempted to shoot and kill himself near a high school football game last fall was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years probation but no additional jail time.

Jared Houska, 20, was given a two-year suspended execution of sentence, but he will be on probation until 2029. Houska pleaded guilty in January to a felony charge of aggravated eluding and a misdemeanor charge of reckless discharge of a firearm. He had already served 90 days in the Brule County Jail, which Judge Bruce Anderson gave him credit for during a sentencing hearing Tuesday at the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain.

Anderson said that given time already served, the maximum penalty of two years in state prison for the aggravated eluding charge might not be the best course of action.

"I think I can exert more control over you on a probationary basis," Anderson said. "Because if I give you the maximum sentence, you're done in two years. Probation can exceed that. I think that's a better way to go. ... In some ways, probation can be a little more difficult because there's always someone there making sure you're doing what you need to do for a longer period of time."

Houska was to be released from the Brule County Jail by the end of the business day on Tuesday. He was also ordered to pay $406.50 to cover a fine and court costs.

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Anderson said Tuesday while addressing Houska and those seated in the courtroom that "logic shut off for Houska" when he was in a psychotic state when he attempted to commit suicide in public.

"You wanted to have a spectacular moment. It was an irrational process," Anderson said of Houska's behavior.

Houska's attorney, Theresa Maule, said Houska has spent time at the Human Services Center in Yankton and has had his mental health evaluated intensely since the Sept. 28 event. Maule said it would be fair to hold the prison sentence over Houska while he's on probation, but noted that he's come a long way since that event.

"He's really unrecognizable since the first day I met him," Maule said. "He's sane, he's lucid ... and he's so extremely remorseful for what he did."

Maule said Houska was so nervous to speak in court that he wrote a two-page letter to Anderson instead. Houska, wearing glasses and a black-and-white jail uniform with shackles around his ankles, made one extended comment during the nearly 30-minute hearing, responding to the judge's question regarding managing his battle with depression.

"I do think I can manage it better than I did," Houska said.

Prior to the judge's sentence, Brule County Deputy State's Attorney Kimberly Zachrison argued for jail time, emphasizing that Houska endangered the public at the football game and the law enforcement officers that were trying to take him into custody. She said that while law enforcement was trying to help him when Houska was first in Fort Thompson, they didn't know what his intentions were, and Houska made what could have been a small situation, "much, much worse."

"There still needs to be consequences, consequences that Mr. Houska knows, 'This is not OK behavior,' consequences so that the community knows that we do not accept this behavior," Zachrison said. "That we can't allow this to happen in Chamberlain."

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According to a probable cause affidavit filed after Houska's arrest, on Sept. 28, 2018, Houska was located near Fort Thompson after making suicidal comments on social media. Officers attempted to make a welfare check on Houska, who then led officers on a pursuit in excess of 100 mph and over 60 mph in the city of Chamberlain, in which he drove through multiple lanes of traffic and traveled the wrong direction on one-way streets.

Houska, who had been living in Mitchell, drove to Chamberlain High School, which was hosting its homecoming football game. He drove onto the football field and discharged a .22-caliber long rifle and shot himself in the head. Police and emergency personnel were then able to provide medical treatment. Houska was about 100 yards away from the football playing field, where the Chamberlain and Winner football teams were warming up for the game. Houska had indicated that he was dealing with a breakup with a girlfriend prior to the event.

Anderson said it was "obvious" that Houska wasn't trying to shoot anyone else and that Houska said the same in part of the investigation into the case. Anderson said it was the third time Houska had attempted suicide.

Anderson said he would be willing to eventually cut back Houska's probation period, but said Houska would need to create a track record of good behavior. Anderson was most adamant regarding Houska's access to guns, whether staying in Mitchell or with his parents near Pukwana.

"You don't touch guns. You don't touch ammunition. He can't have access at all," Anderson said to Houska.

Related Topics: CHAMBERLAINFOOTBALLCRIME
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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