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COPS ACCUSED OF GOING OVER BOARD IN TRAFFIC STOP

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By Barbara Soderlin

RC Journal

RAPID CITY --- Civil-rights activist Duane Martin Sr. said state Highway Patrol officers used unnecessary force in a traffic stop that resulted in his arrest Tuesday night in Rapid City.

Martin is angry that officers drew their guns, handcuffed him and members of his family and forced them to kneel on the road as their vehicle was searched for weapons.

He said the actions endangered the life of a baby in the vehicle and scared his family, and he has called on politicians to investigate and for the officers involved to be held "accountable for illegal acts of unprofessional conduct."

But the patrol said the response was typical and appropriate, given the information officers had.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find an agency that doesn't do it like that," patrol Lt. David Berkeley said after describing the stop. "Based on what I've heard and read, it sounds like he used appropriate actions for what the situation dictated."

Pennington County law enforcement dispatchers received a call from a citizen about 8 p.m. Tuesday that a man with Martin's description was driving a Jeep Cherokee into Rapid City, had an outstanding warrant and was possibly in possession of firearms, according to the Pennington County Sheriff's Office and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

The county put out an alert for all available law enforcement in the area to watch for the vehicle.

Martin said he was headed north into the city on U.S. Highway 16 near Catron Boulevard when a state patrol car came up behind him.

The officer did not initiate a traffic stop with flashing lights, but Martin said he pulled his Jeep over because he had noticed another officer behind him earlier in his drive from Batesland on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and wondered what was going on.

He said the patrolman told him to show his hands, get out of the Jeep, turn around and walk backward away from the vehicle.

Berkeley said this is typical for a "felony stop" when officers believe a person might be dangerous.

Pennington County Sheriff's Lt. Corey Brubakken said the sheriff's office uses similar procedures in such situations.

"The reason for that type of reaction, I believe, was that it was called in as, this individual has warrants, and they have firearms in the vehicle. Whether that's true or not, that officer doesn't know," he said. "They've got to keep themselves safe. ... It's not a clearly black-and-white deal."

More officers arrived from the patrol and from Rapid City police in a scene Martin described as "almost like a movie, the way they came after us."

Martin said there were nine officers with guns drawn and that he was made to kneel in the road, and the other adults in the vehicle -- Martin's wife, her niece and the niece's husband -- also were handcuffed and told to kneel.

Martin said an officer held a gun to the back of his head. "They put the gun right behind my ponytail," he said.

But Berkeley said that did not happen.

"Our officers wouldn't do that," he said.

Berkeley said officers would have approached with guns in hand, ready to fire if necessary, but that they would keep the weapons pointed in a "safe direction" to avoid an accident.

Martin thought the display of firearms was too much.

"Don't come out right away out of some Western movie and start pulling out sidearms," he said. "No man, this isn't the South, man. ... You don't pull firearms on people unless your lives are in danger. Their lives were not in danger."

He cooperated and gave the officers permission to search his Jeep, where no weapons were found, according to Martin and the patrol.

The officers arrested Martin and his wife, Vonda Bianas, on warrants -- him for failure to pay child support and her for traffic violations. He said he does not understand why someone would call authorities on him about child support when his children are grown, and Bianas, their mother, was with him in the car.

Martin said he believes he was set up either by someone in the judicial system who has something against his family or by someone who is angry with him "because I'm uncovering all the illegal dope dealing and bootlegging on the reservation," a focus of his activism.

He said whoever set up him "used white law enforcement" to harass him.

Martin said he has been arrested twice before, once in Denver during a Columbus Day protest, and once last summer during a blockade on the border between the Pine Ridge reservation and Whiteclay, Neb., where people go from the dry reservation to buy alcohol.

Martin said he has contacted civil-rights organizations and politicians about the incident.

"What I want is a full-fledged investigation," he said.

A spokesman for Sen. John Thune said Thune will not be investigating. Senate ethics rules prevent him from getting involved in a complaint about local law enforcement, said Qusi Al-Haj, Thune's West River director.

"Duane calls often with his issues," Al-Haj said. "I was sympathetic to his issue and just listened to him," but "the senator's hands are tied."

RC JOURNAL/SST

Comments

I know Duane Martin and he is an honest man who loves the Lakota people and has friends he calls brothers among the whites in spite of the horrendous treatment and near genocide of his people over the years by an uncomprehending white culture that continues to steal from him and ignore the suffering of the Lakota languishing on Pine Ridge Reservation that President Clinton visited for a photo op and called a 'third world in America' yet did nothing. The problem here is not that the police followed 'standard procedure' but that such standard procedure does not allow for a human apology to be issued later when it is realized that white law was manipulated very deliberately by someone wanting to set Duane up for harassment and endanger him and his family, trying to provoke him. Can we get past trying to justify ourselves and realize we human beings are one nation of many tribes? We cannot have a world that works until it works for all of us. The police need to realize that they themselves were set up by the phone caller. It is quite obvious given the facts of the old warrants and his ex-wife in the car with him! At the very least they should apologize to Duane. More than that, there could well be an investigation of the whole incident and even the caller who set it up. A one-month-old child was in the car as well as women and children---all unarmed. It's a lot to be responsible for in the midst of drawn guns and fear of the unknown that besieges both parties. Can Duane trust the white police knowing he and his people have been mistreated and mistrusted before just because of being Indian? So in the end, there are no warrants, no guns, no fugitives, no problems. Except Duane Martin is humiliated, threatened, arrested on false suspicions and by the time he is let go when the facts becomes clear, he and his whole family have been through an ordeal that has injured them and attacked their spirits. What does that tell you is going on? Spiritual warfare is the oldest war. It is an attempt of those who fear and hate to infect those who aren't with the affliction. It is an attempt to dominate and control and gain power over another rather than face him honestly as a brother. It is a coward's way to slander a brave and honest man who puts himself at risk to challenge injustice. Same old story. Will the human beings in this drama stand up and reach out to one another so that the "roles" of "cop" and "dangerous Indian fugitive" don't end in a disaster that we all will regret? I pray for this.

A lot of people nowadays, especially Native Americans, run around on this earth believing that they are owed something by the "white man." I grew up listening to my father talk about the BIA and boarding schools. Law enforcement did not harass him or violate his civil rights. In fact, he is a fugitive from justice as well as his wife. You can't blame the world for what it doesn't owe you. There are billions of people on this earth and countless trees. If you walk through a forest you have to navigate your away around trees, not stop in front of it and yell at it because it is in your way. It has nothing to do with you. Man up and take responsibility. I'm willing to bet you were speeding through Pine Ridge, so a unit followed you and ran a warrants check on you. Once they knew you had warrants they radioed you into Pine Ridge which then followed you and radioed you into Pennington County and Rapid City. They followed up and low and behold; voila; you had warrants and were arrested on such. I am also willing to bet you still have warrants; using the reservation as a safeguard and hiding from justice again. Nobody violated your civil rights and nobody harassed you. Just from a description of the events it is obvious they followed procedure and policy. There is something they also invented awhile back called cameras. May the creator have pity on you

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