Sioux Falls police officer justified in March fatal shooting of knife-wielding subject

The shooting in Sioux Falls was the 17th officer-involved shooting in South Dakota since 2018. All have been found to be justified.

Sioux Falls Police.jpg

SIOUX FALLS — A Sioux Falls police officer was justified in shooting a knife-wielding man six times, killing him in March, a report from the Office of the Attorney General opined Thursday.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on March 31, police in Sioux Falls were called to the 1900 block of west 6th Street in Sioux Falls after a caller in Ida County, Iowa, reported his brother, Cody Kelley, had overdosed and slit his wrists. The caller said Kelley had instructed them to plan his funeral, as “the monster was coming out.”

When police arrived at the address, they made verbal contact with Kelley, who allegedly refused to open the door for officers and told them they needed to evacuate the building because he had done something to the gas lines. Over the following half-hour, officers evacuated the building while attempting to de-escalate the situation.

Kelley allegedly told officers he wanted to harm himself and others and asked police to “put a bullet in his head,” noting he would need a military funeral. He told officers he was struggling with “demons” and that he needed to “end the cycle.” He allegedly added that he’d been planning on committing suicide for approximately three years, did not want to wake up in the morning and that he was going to “cut a vein.”

After an hour on scene, the reports says uniformed officers made entry into the apartment and identified themselves as police officers. They located Kelley in a small bathroom and positioned themselves outside the bathroom. Police say they observed Kelley holding a large, fixed-blade knife to his neck while yelling at officers to shoot him in the head. Kelley was bleeding from his arms and allegedly refused to drop the knife.


At this time, according to the report, a Sioux Falls police officer, identified in the report as Officer 2, deployed two less-lethal 40mm rounds at Kelley in an effort to make him drop the knife. One round missed, but a second round is believed to have struck Kelley, but was ineffective, as he continued to hold the knife to his neck. Kelley continued to refuse to comply with commands, and allegedly told police “it’s going to end right here, shoot me in the head.”

An officer identified as Officer 3 used a stun gun to attempt to incapacitate Kelley, which was somewhat successful, causing Kelley to “temporarily” drop the knife.

Investigators provided this map of the scene where Cody Kelley was fatally shot by a Sioux Falls police officer on March 31, 2022.
Map courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General

The report called this a “window of opportunity,” where officers grabbed Kelley’s arms in an attempt to gain control and pull him away from the bathtub where the knife lay. Kelley allegedly resisted and caused officers to lose their grip on his arms. Additional stun gun exposures were used, but ineffective.

The report said after being stunned more, Kelley began swinging at officers who attempted to grab onto him. He allegedly grabbed another knife from the bath tub and continued swinging at officers, cutting another officer, identified as Officer 1, in the leg. In the struggle, Officer 3 slipped and fell to the ground.

The report said Officer 1, after being stabbed and realizing Officer 3 was in a “vulnerable” position, drew his firearm and fired 10 rounds at Kelley, striking him six times. Kelley dropped the knife and allegedly thanked officers for shooting him. He was removed from the bathroom and transported to a Sioux Falls hospital, where he later died.

The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is the agency tasked with investigating officer-involved shootings in the state. The Sioux Falls Police Department requested their assistance in conducting the investigation.

In the report, DCI pictured two knives discovered in the bath tub and four knives located in the bathroom but outside the bath tub.

In the bath tub was a fixed-blade knife and brass knuckles with a blade extending outward. On the floor was a second fixed-blade knife, a box cutter, a hook blade and a throwing knife.


An autopsy conducted on Kelley's body found two gunshot wounds to the left chest, one to the left posterior shoulder, one to the left back, one to the left hand with re-entry to the chest and right elbow and one to the left arm with re-entry to the left chest. Multiple sharp, incises wounds were also located on Kelley's neck, face and arms.

A toxicology report found Kelley was under the influence of amphetamine and methamphetamine at a "toxic level."

A criminal history review found he was also the subject of an active investigation for possession of child pornography.

Investigators located six knives in the bathroom of Cody Kelley's apartment in Sioux Falls when he was fatally shot by police on March 31, 2022. These two knives were located on the floor next to the bath tub.
Photos courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General

Through forensic interviews of officers and witnesses, and a review of body-worn cameras and an autopsy, the Attorney General’s Office found all information seemed to align with one another, and opined that Officer 1 was justified in his use of deadly force.

With Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg suspended from office pending an impeachment trial, Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles McGuigan reviewed the report.

The Sioux Falls shooting was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in a two-week span of March. Others in Hanson County and Rapid City were also found to be a justified use of deadly force.

The shooting in Sioux Falls was the 17th officer-involved shooting in South Dakota since 2018. All have been found to be justified.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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