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Mitchell police use drone support, MRAP in five-person arrest

Mitchell police used two little-used pieces of equipment last week to assist in the apprehension of five suspects charged with robbery and aggravated assault.

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Authorities work the scene at Quality Inn in Mitchell, where last week suspects were arrested following an armed robbery that started in Yankton. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

Mitchell police used two little-used pieces of equipment last week to assist in the apprehension of five suspects charged with robbery and aggravated assault.

Five people were arrested following a series of events that began with an alleged armed robbery on Dec. 22 in Yankton and ended with an alleged vehicle theft on Dec. 23 in Mitchell.

Chicago residents Jo Thomas, 26; Demil Spears, 23; Davonjae Strong, 24; Derrell Williamson, 25; and Hailee Flores, 23, of Parkston, were charged with first-degree robbery, aggravated assault, first-degree petty theft and commission of a felony with a firearm. Thomas and Flores were additionally charged with grand theft valued over $5,000, and Williamson is charged with failing to register as a sex offender.

Everson said no additional charges have been brought against the suspects, and the investigation continues.

Before apprehending the suspects, Mitchell police took extra safety precautions by loading out the police division's mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), which hasn't been used since a January shooting in Kimball, and a drone, which was a first for the department, according to Mitchell Det. Lt. Don Everson.

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"It was an opportunity that fit with the situation at hand," Everson said.

When police arrived at the Quality Inn in Mitchell, where police found a stolen vehicle connected with the suspects, a civilian with a drone offered to help.

After officers used impact rounds to break the suspects' hotel room window, Everson said the drone allowed the officers to gain "the best possible intelligence" they could get. With the drone's camera, officers could see there was no one in the room.

The city doesn't own a drone of its own. Everson said that could change, though he declined to divulge further details.

"The city of Mitchell does not have a drone, but we anticipate having access to one very shortly," Everson said.

To ensure officer safety, both the Mitchell Police Division's emergency response unit and South Dakota Highway Patrol's SWAT team were dispatched to the scene, totaling more than 20 officers, along with Mitchell's MRAP vehicle.

The MRAP vehicle is useful for evacuating people and protecting officers, Everson said, and officials said the truck was an effective and important tool during a standoff in Kimball on Jan. 7 in which Donald London shot and injured a Highway Patrol trooper, which was the last time the vehicle was deployed.

Prior to that incident, the MRAP vehicle was deployed twice in 2014. It was used once in an out-of-area incident and again on Nov. 8, 2014, at the Quality Inn in Mitchell, where Joy Sherman, 52, of Mitchell, threatened to hurt herself or others and pointed a gun at police. A Mitchell police officer shot and killed Sherman, which was later deemed justified by the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.

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"It's just coincidence that two incidents happened at the same hotel," Everson said. "Both incidents were not related in any way. It can happen anywhere."

There was no gunfire exchanged during the incident last week, but Everson said it's good to have the armored truck on site even if live rounds aren't discharged, because it is cumbersome to drive and requires the focus of several people to properly operate.

"It's better to bring it to this type of scene than to go get it later," Everson said.

Related Topics: CRIME
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