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Trial for Kimball shooter to be moved out of Brule County

CHAMBERLAIN -- A trial for a Kimball man who shot a Highway Patrol trooper has been moved out of Brule County to find an impartial jury. Donald London, 43, of Kimball, appeared Friday at the Brule County Courthouse for a motions hearing, at the e...

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Donald London, 43, of Kimball, center, is escorted Friday from the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain by part-time Deputy Jerry Herbst, left, and Chief Deputy Tory Engel, right. (Jake Shama/Republic)

CHAMBERLAIN - A trial for a Kimball man who shot a Highway Patrol trooper has been moved out of Brule County to find an impartial jury.

Donald London, 43, of Kimball, appeared Friday at the Brule County Courthouse for a motions hearing, at the end of which Judge Bruce Anderson agreed to move the trial, possibly to Winner in Tripp County, which has similar demographics to Brule County and contains the jail where London is being held. Sioux Falls was also considered as an option.

During the Friday hearing, London sought a dismissal of his case based on outrageous government conduct.

London faces two counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, all class 2 felonies, following a standoff in January 2015 in which London allegedly barricaded himself in a house near Kimball for 24 hours and shot at law enforcement, injuring a Highway Patrol trooper.

London and his late father, Michael London, were arrested after the incident, which involved an armored vehicle, tear gas and flash grenades. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity later that month.

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The judge did not made a determination on Friday, but if he decides outrageous government conduct took place, London will be acquitted of the offenses. The defense was given 14 days to submit a brief in support of the motion, and the state was given 14 days after that to respond. The defense may then submit its final reply by Nov. 25.

In defense of London, attorneys argued actions taken by law enforcement put lives in danger and even escalated the incident.

London’s attorneys, Tim Whalen and Brad Schreiber called Arizona resident Dave Lauck, formerly South Dakota, who owns a custom firearms and tactical training company. Lauck said law enforcement failed to abide by the “priority of life,” in which officers must protect civilians first, officers second and a violent suspect third.

Lauck most sharply criticized the officers’ handling of London based on incidents before the standoff took place. Two days before the standoff, London allegedly threatened officers in a Kimball bar and assaulted the bartender, attorneys said.

London then allegedly left the bar intoxicated and was located by a deputy. He was found with alcohol on the ground and a vehicle that would not run. Because temperatures were well below zero, the deputy called an ambulance but did not make an arrest because there was no proof he had driven intoxicated, which the state of South Dakota said did not abuse the officer’s discretion.

Lauck said officers should have taken London’s threats seriously and held him in custody until he sobered up. The next day, officers responded to the home where the standoff would ultimately occur. London had a gun and was agitated, which led officers to request London’s family lock up all weapons in the house and transport London to a mental health physician in Sioux Falls, but Dakota Counseling Institute in Mitchell determined he did not need treatment, so he was sent home.

Given the incidents on those days, Lauck said officers should have taken London into custody.

“Whether the DUI was a factor or not, you’re going to want to take this guy off the street, and he can at least sober up,” Lauck said. “If the mental health people won’t take him, then make a probable cause arrest to protect everybody. I wouldn’t have left him at that ranch house if I was a responding officer.”

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Lauck also said the officers should have known London suffered with mental health issues and noted only six responders had any training with emotionally disturbed persons. He raised issue with the first responders’ tactics, too, saying the perimeter made by the first officers, including the trooper who was shot, was too visible and created a stressful situation.

Court documents say 132 officers were involved in the incident, but South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Craig Price said many of these individuals were dispatchers in Mitchell, Sioux Falls or Pierre, and some officers were waiting in a hotel or out of sight of the home.

A mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle from Mitchell and two more armored vehicles arrived on the inner perimeter of the home, which Price said contained between six and 10 officers each.

Price approved the SWAT team to respond to the incident, but he urged restraint in some matters. Some SWAT members wanted to knock down the house to get London outside, but Price ordered them to use less drastic measures.

Afterward, some of the officers involved believed the situation should have been handled more aggressively, Price said, but in following meetings there were no comments “about us losing control,” Price noted.

“The SWAT team had concerns that the suspect was in control. They made it very clear they thought the suspect was in control,” Price said. “In my opinion, after the shots ceased, we had the situation under control.”

Christopher Fowler, a member of the Seattle Police Department and an officer in the Army National Guard, was called by the state, which is represented by Assistant Attorneys General Bridget Mayer and Kelly Marnette and Brule County State’s Attorney Dave Natvig. Fowler said the officers used an appropriate use of discretion in deciding not to make an arrest, but if he was in the same situation, he may have considered arresting London the day prior to the standoff.

“Given the preponderance of the evidence I have, I may have made that arrest,” Fowler said.

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However, he said the officers’ decisions were also reasonable responses and said law enforcement’s expectation that London would be checked into a mental health facility was enough to fulfill their duty to keep the community safe.

According to Scott Bresler, clinical director of forensic psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, London was “psychotic,” “depressed” and at times “suicidal,” among other conditions, that January.

“This is like a boiling cauldron of mental health symptoms,” Bresler said, adding that police tactics contributed to a “perfect storm” on the day of the incident.

He said London’s condition could cause him to perceive behavior as aggressive when it isn’t, but it’s difficult to know what he was thinking because his condition “ebbs and flows.”

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Donald London, 43, of Kimball, center, is escorted Friday from the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain by part-time Deputy Jerry Herbst, left, and Chief Deputy Tory Engel, right. (Jake Shama/Republic)

Related Topics: KIMBALLCRIME
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