Sioux Falls officers cleared after firing 12 shots at suspect who pointed sawed-off shotgun at police
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation said after two officers observed a shotgun pointed out of a vehicle's window, they fired a dozen shots toward the car.
SIOUX FALLS — Two law enforcement officers with the Sioux Falls Police Department were justified in a July shooting after a suspect pointed an illegal shotgun toward them, the Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday.
The shooting occurred on July 11, when two uniformed officers, identified in the report as Officer 1 and Officer 2, were conducting a surveillance operation in an unmarked patrol vehicle in the 500 block of North Bahnson Avenue in Sioux Falls.
The operation was being conducted in connection with a Crime Stoppers tip, alleging that Mario Rodriguez, a parole absconder, was armed with a long gun in the area. In the process of surveilling an apartment, Officers 1 and 2 observed a male exit the apartment and enter a vehicle, which the officers followed.
As the officers conducted a traffic stop, the vehicle pulled into a gas station near the intersection of Sixth Street and Cleveland Avenue. Police maneuvered their vehicle in front of the suspect vehicle.
As the officers exited their patrol car, they observed an individual in the back seat of the vehicle, whose presence was previously unknown, pointing a shotgun out of a window. Officer 1 fired eight rounds toward the shotgun, while Officer 2 fired four. Though the shots did strike the vehicle, none of the vehicle’s occupants were struck.
“Immediately after SFPD Officers fired their weapons, the driver and front seat passenger exited the front passenger door. The driver and front seat passenger laid on the ground outside of the vehicle and complied with the officers’ commands,” a report issued by the Attorney General’s Office reads. “Mario Rodriguez exited the rear passenger door of the vehicle and began to crawl away from the vehicle. Rodriguez then ran into the car wash in an attempt to flee the area.”
While moving toward the car wash’s office, Rodriguez allegedly began recording police, telling them to shoot him while yelling expletives. Officers were eventually able to subdue Rodriguez through the use of a stun gun.
In a search of Rodriguez’s person, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation into the shooting, said authorities found a glass pipe and baggie containing more than seven grams of methamphetamine.
In the vehicle, police and DCI agents located a 20-gauge shotgun on the floor, directly in front of the rear driver’s side seat — the same seat Rodriguez had occupied at the time of the traffic stop.
Forensic examination of the shotgun determined the barrel had been shortened with a saw, making the gun an illegal firearm.
The shotgun was loaded with three live 20-gauge shotgun shells. There was also a black bag located near the rear seat where Rodriguez was positioned, which contained numerous items including glass pipes, a knife, a spent shotgun shell, marijuana paraphernalia, baggies with unknown white residue, a digital scale and $1,610 in fake currency.
A criminal background check later conducted on Rodriguez revealed three prior arrests for impersonation to deceive law enforcement, as well as arrests for possession of alcohol by a minor, possession of marijuana, obstructing a police officer, possession of a controlled substance and aggravated assault.
In connection with the shooting, Rodriguez was later charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of possessing a firearm after a violent felony conviction and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.
If convicted on all charges, Rodriguez could be sentenced to serve up to 74 years in prison and pay fines of up to $148,000. He’s set to appear in a Minnehaha County courtroom for a one-day jury trial on Nov. 21.
The officer-involved shooting was one of nine that have taken place across South Dakota this year. Of those nine, eight have been deemed justified, while one other — a July 15 shooting in Madison — remains under investigation.
Since 2006, all 57 officer-involved shootings in the state have been deemed justified.