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Cyber-security summit to prevent disaster held in Sioux Falls

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 1:48 p.m. CDT by Mark Russo

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO AM) How to protect South Dakota’s critical infrastructure from cyber-attack was the focus of a meeting in Sioux Falls Wednesday. Government representatives, utilities, and telecommunications companies brainstormed on how best to cooperate moving forward. State Public Safety Secretary Trevor Jones says cyberattacks and the potential for disaster will only increase. He says South Dakota needs to prepare just as it would for a blizzard or other natural disaster.

In our agencies, businesses and organizations, the threat of cyberattacks is real, says Lt. Gov. Matt Michels. It makes sense to work together to determine how we can assist one another with cybersecurity issues.

Besides the Department of Public Safety, other government agencies involved in the cybersecurity efforts include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the South Dakota Fusion Center, South Dakota Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, the South Dakota National Guard and Attorney General s Office/South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation.

Private companies and associations involved in the project included SDN Communications, Midco, Xcel Energy, South Dakota Telecommunications Association, MidAmerican Energy, and Verizon.

Turmoil churns inside Nebraska State Patrol over shifting narratives …

GORDON, Neb. A convicted felon who d been out booze cruising with friends, Antoine LaDeaux died in a violent crash last fall when he tried to outrun a state trooper north of this remote ranching town. But now, months after the Oct. 3 crash, plenty of questions remain about why LaDeaux s vehicle rolled, ejecting him onto the shoulder of a lonely highway. Did his car roll after being bumped by the trooper s cruiser in a maneuver called a tactical vehicle intervention, or TVI, designed to bring high-speed chases to a safe end?

Or did LaDeaux swerve into the trooper s vehicle, causing the collision? Three times in the immediate aftermath of the crash, the trooper chasing LaDeaux, Trooper Tim Flick, said he performed a TVI. But hours later, the narrative from the State Patrol officials in the Panhandle changed, suddenly claiming that LaDeaux not Flick instigated the collision with his swerving.

Dashcam video from the trooper s car appears to show the trooper s cruiser veering into LaDeaux s vehicle, initiating the contact that resulted in the crash. State Patrol officials presented competing versions of the incident to a Sheridan County grand jury that was called to rule on the in-custody death. The grand jury expressed some confusion, records indicate, but in the end concluded that LaDeaux s actions caused his death. But inside the patrol, turmoil is still churning over whether a false narrative was created to avoid the additional scrutiny, and attention, the crash would have attracted had it been clearly deemed a TVI case.

A TVI is regarded as a use of force by the patrol, which requires additional reports and investigation to determine if its use was justified. It would also raise more questions about the use of the high-speed tactic, and could increase the patrol s liability for the crash if a lawsuit was filed. LaDeaux s mother said she has been urged to sue. The man in charge of the internal investigation of the fatal crash, Lt. Dennis Leonard, the head of the patrol s internal affairs unit, said he believes a TVI was used and it was appropriate. Still, he was disappointed and disheartened by the change of stories, plus what he perceived to be pressure from higher-ups to alter the narrative.

I never thought this likely, but I must say that I no longer believe we are capable of objectively investigating our own, Leonard stated in a Nov. 4 email obtained through a public records request. Col. Brad Rice, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said he has the utmost confidence that the patrol can objectively investigate its own personnel. He said that differences of opinion over such incidents are not uncommon in agencies.

The disagreements in this case in no way changed the outcome, or what was presented to the grand jury, Rice said. The jury, he emphasized, found no wrongdoing.

However, Leonard, who has since retired, said truth was the biggest casualty in this case.

We re supposed to be objective and tell the truth. We re not supposed to imagine or create a narrative and find facts that match, he said in an interview. TVIs have been used by the State Patrol since 2010. In the maneuver, a trooper uses the front corner or bumper of the patrol car to push the back quarter panel of a fleeing vehicle, forcing it to spin out and stall. Troopers can then surround and apprehend the disoriented driver, bringing a potentially dangerous highway chase to a safe conclusion. But on Oct. 3, something went wrong.

The chase began about 10:25 p.m. when Flick, on a routine patrol north of Gordon on Nebraska Highway 27, noticed a car run a stop sign as it turned onto the highway. After Flick confirmed that there was a stop sign at the intersection, he turned around and gave chase, the engine of his 2014 Dodge Charger roaring. Ninety seconds into the pursuit, the trooper s dashboard video showed the cruiser s emergency lights flashing and its sirens blaring. The fleeing vehicle, a gray 2001 Mercury Sable with darkened windows and no license plates, turned west onto a gravel road.

Dust was flying and the chink, chink of rocks hitting the patrol cruiser can be heard.

Speeds right now eight-zero, eight-zero, Flick told the dispatcher. The chase turned northward onto another gravel road as the trooper can be heard dialing his phone. The Mercury swayed back and forth across the roadway.

Request use of TVI when appropriate, he said to Sgt. Kevin Waugh, mentioning when nearby ditches were shallower and there was no traffic.

Ten-four, responded Waugh, who asked if there were any passengers.

(The patrol s policy on the use of a TVI requires consideration of passengers in the fleeing vehicle, the condition and width of the roadway, and whether the fleeing driver is showing total disregard for public safety, such as driving at other vehicles.)

Flick, over his radio, said he believed there was only one passenger. In actuality, there were three passengers. The fleeing vehicle skidded around a corner and turned back onto Highway 27, about 12 miles from the South Dakota border.

About a half mile down the highway, Flick called out, Attempting TVI, attempting TVI.

Ten-four, attempting TVI, said the dispatcher. The dashcam video shows the collision and its aftermath. First, Flick steered his cruiser to behind the driver s side of the Mercury, but the fleeing car cut him off, veering to the left, past the highway s center line.

The trooper then steered to the right side of the vehicle. The passenger-side wheels of the trooper s cruiser went to the right edge of the pavement. A mailbox appeared on the shoulder, coming up fast. As the Mercury slowly crept to the right, Flick s cruiser appeared to veer to the left, bumping the Mercury. The cruiser then accelerated forward as the Mercury spun out of the video screen to the right, debris flying.

LaDeaux, 32, was ejected and died instantly. He was not using a seat belt, unlike the other occupants of the car.

Goll dangit, can be heard on the radio. After Flick stopped his cruiser and backed up, the video shows the smoldering Mercury, which rolled into the ditch and came to rest on its wheels.

Scottsbluff, TVI conducted. One ejected. Need 10-55, 10-55 …, Flick radioed in a loud voice, using the code to dispatch an ambulance.

Oh, crap, said the trooper as he stepped out of his patrol car and saw LaDeaux s body.

Got one 10-65, one 10-65, Flick said, which is the code for probable death. The dispatcher then called for a volunteer rescue squad to be dispatched from Gordon.

He TVI d the vehicle. One got ejected and he s 10-65 … looks like 2 miles north (of town), she said.

Moments later, Flick encountered the three passengers as they sat dazed in the Mercury. One was LaDeaux s younger brother, Cameron LaDeaux, 30.

Why did you have to ram us like that? he shouted at Flick.

I did not ram you. I did not ram you, Flick responded, as he urged the injured brother to remain seated. Moaning and screaming can be heard in the background. Check on my brother, yelled Cameron LaDeaux. A short time later, Flick reported in, Speed was five-zero, five-zero when TVI was conducted.

Ten-four, responded the dispatcher. Fifty.

Soon, the accident scene was buzzing with Gordon fire and rescue personnel. At one point Flick can be heard talking on a cellphone to someone.

I TVI d a car, he said. I m fine. I ll talk to you as soon as I can. Later, in response to an apparent question, he said into the phone, No. I followed policy. We re good. But it didn t take long for the story about the crash to change, and for an exchange of emails and memos to begin within the patrol that questioned the differing accounts, particularly whether the incident was a TVI or not.

In an email and a memo, the trooper s commander, Capt. Jamey Balthazor, who heads the Panhandle troop of the patrol, said Flick had told him in a roadside meeting a couple of hours after the crash that LaDeaux had caused it by steering into his cruiser. When Flick was asked by grand jurors why his story had changed, the trooper said he didn t realize until later that he had not used a TVI. Flick said he turned left into the fleeing car, as he would during a TVI, as a defensive maneuver to avoid being pushed into the ditch.

When he hit me, for all intents and purposes, he actually TVI d himself using my car, Flick told the grand jurors, according to a transcript of the testimony.

But that wasn t the only version of the crash given to the 16 members of the Sheridan County grand jury. The patrol s trainer of the tactic, Sgt. Cody Paro, told jurors it definitely was a TVI, and a textbook case of when it s needed.

You had a vehicle that was driving at a high rate of speed, it was driving in a dangerous manner, Paro said. The accident reconstructionist who reviewed the crash, Sgt. Travis Wallace, had a slightly different interpretation of the collision. He testified that the video showed the mechanics of a TVI, but he felt that it was unintentional.

TVIs are not common, Paro told jurors, but are used between five and 11 times a year by the patrol, out of about 80 high-speed chases a year. To do a TVI, a trooper must be trained in the maneuver and must obtain permission from a superior, Paro said. While it s not clear on the dashcam recording, Rice said that permission was granted. Patrol policy also requires proper backup before using it so that other troopers are available for a quick arrest, which wasn t the case in the Oct. 3 crash.

The policy, which was presented to the grand jury, says that high speed is a consideration in approving a TVI because that makes the maneuver less predictable and increases the chance of a crash and injuries. Flick s speed at the time of the crash was estimated at nearly 67 mph much higher than the 50 mph he reported on the night of the incident. Paro testified that troopers train TVIs at 45 or 50 mph, but the maneuver can be done at higher speeds. Yet the patrol trainer said he was shocked to see that LaDeaux s car had rolled instead of spun out.

Paro speculated that the fleeing car may have hit some kind of obstruction in the ditch. Maybe the ditch was too narrow, suggested one grand juror. Paro said he wasn t going to sugarcoat it, but that could be a risk. Jurors asked Flick why he reported his speed at 50 mph when an accident reconstructionist concluded it was nearly 67 mph. The trooper responded that 50 was the last reading he saw on his speedometer. Flick conceded that he didn t know his speed at the time of the crash.

Juror No. 14 asked: Would you have attempted a TVI if you knew four people were in the car? Probably not, he responded. Then another grand juror asked: How could a patrol investigator conclude the incident was a textbook case of using a TVI if it wasn t one? Flick responded: The best explanation I can give you is that the instructor s conclusions came from watching the video where I m actually driving the car.

Well, responded Grand Juror No. 13. I can see by watching and listening to you, I can see where you were more defensive driving. I just don t understand (the instructor s) testimony, I guess.

I wish I could help you more. I really do, said Flick.

The patrol declined requests to talk to Flick as well as Capt. Balthazor, saying that Rice would respond on their behalf. Flick was required to take a breath test following the crash, which showed no evidence of impairment. He was en route to Chadron for a blood-alcohol test a couple of hours later when he met his commander, Balthazor, on the highway between Gordon and Rushville. That s the first indication that the account of the crash had changed.

Balthazor, in an email the next morning, told the patrol s public information officer that LaDeaux s car had swerved towards me, quoting Flick, causing the contact. Later that same afternoon, Balthazor s immediate supervisor, Maj. Mike Gaudreault, recommended in an email that the trooper and others not undergo a psychological debriefing because the incident was an accident, caused by the fleeing driver, not a use of force case involving a TVI. That was when Leonard, who was heading the patrol s internal affairs unit, entered the picture. His job was to review such incidents to determine whether troopers acted appropriately, and in the case of use of force such as a TVI, whether the trooper s actions were justified.

In an Oct. 5 email, two days after the crash, Leonard said the dashcam video from Flick s patrol car clearly showed a TVI. He urged Balthazor to help Flick complete a report that appropriately reflects that. But four hours after getting the email from Leonard, Balthazor suggested corrections in a critique of the incident being done by one of his field commanders, Lt. Kevin Krzyzanowski, to reflect that there was no TVI, and that the accident was caused by the fleeing driver.

I hate being too critical … but many eyes will see the critique, he told Krzyzanowski. Rice, the patrol s superintendent, rejected a suggestion that Capt. Balthazor and Maj. Gaudreault were trying to influence the outcome of the incident review, saying they have a responsibility to lead those under their command. Rice also said that no pressure was exerted on Leonard to back off his internal investigation.

Four days after the crash, as the debate over what had happened intensified, Rice told Trooper Flick that he would be restored to active duty. Flick returned to work on Oct. 10, a week after the crash. Rice said he could not comment specifically, because of the union contract, about why he made that decision then, but that generally, he works quickly to resolve matters that take troopers off the road. As late as Nov. 22, almost two months after the crash, a patrol investigator who reviewed the incident reports, Lt. Brent Bockstadter, urged changes in them. Flick, he said, was clearly engaged in an appropriate TVI. Rice said he could not comment on whether the reports were amended.

When the grand jury met two weeks later, LaDeaux s brother, Cameron, who was in the fleeing car, testified that Flick s car shoved us off the road … and then we started flipping.

It was bullshit. … He killed a good man, Cameron LaDeaux said. He said that his brother fled the trooper because he was scared and didn t want to go to jail. Another person in the car, Alanna Rosales of Gordon, said Antoine LaDeaux told them things would be OK if he could outrun the trooper to the state line.

Alicia Munoz of Rapid City, South Dakota, the fourth occupant of the car, said the group had drank like a gallon of spice rum and vodka during the several hours prior to the crash. LaDeaux s blood-alcohol level tested at .239, almost three times the legal limit, after the accident. LaDeaux had been in trouble with the law before, serving nine months in prison for a criminal mischief conviction in 2003, and then nearly three years, ending in 2008, for two counts of burglary and assaulting a law enforcement officer.

Six months before the crash, LaDeaux had been released from probation for a first-offense drunken driving conviction in Scotts Bluff County. But his mother, Cleo LaDeaux, 57, of Gordon, said he was doing well in the weeks prior to the crash. Antoine, she said, was scheduled to graduate this spring from a community college on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and planned to become a homebuilder.

He said he was going to build a house for me, his mother said. I have a lot of pain over losing my oldest son.

Rice, the head of the State Patrol, said he viewed the video of the incident, and felt the trooper reacted appropriately in a difficult situation.

The legal process was followed and the grand jury came to their determination. The system worked, Rice said. Leonard, who retired Dec. 31 after a 30-year career with the patrol, said in an interview that he d never before encountered such interference from a higher level to influence the conclusion of an investigation. He declined to name the higher officials, saying the emails and records speak for themselves.

Leonard, who now works as a security officer at Hastings College, said he was glad that others at the patrol who reviewed the crash also concluded a TVI was used, and that it was appropriately used under the circumstances.

So why did others feel a need to say it wasn t a TVI?

I have an opinion about what was going on, but I can t speak to what was coming out of their hearts and minds, Leonard said. I don t know.

Turmoil churns inside Nebraska State Patrol over shifting narratives about fatal pursuit crash

GORDON, Neb. A convicted felon who d been out booze cruising with friends, Antoine LaDeaux died in a violent crash last fall when he tried to outrun a state trooper north of this remote ranching town. But now, months after the Oct. 3 crash, plenty of questions remain about why LaDeaux s vehicle rolled, ejecting him onto the shoulder of a lonely highway. Did his car roll after being bumped by the trooper s cruiser in a maneuver called a tactical vehicle intervention, or TVI, designed to bring high-speed chases to a safe end?

Or did LaDeaux swerve into the trooper s vehicle, causing the collision? Three times in the immediate aftermath of the crash, the trooper chasing LaDeaux, Trooper Tim Flick, said he performed a TVI. But hours later, the narrative from the State Patrol officials in the Panhandle changed, suddenly claiming that LaDeaux not Flick instigated the collision with his swerving.

Dashcam video from the trooper s car appears to show the trooper s cruiser veering into LaDeaux s vehicle, initiating the contact that resulted in the crash. State Patrol officials presented competing versions of the incident to a Sheridan County grand jury that was called to rule on the in-custody death. The grand jury expressed some confusion, records indicate, but in the end concluded that LaDeaux s actions caused his death. But inside the patrol, turmoil is still churning over whether a false narrative was created to avoid the additional scrutiny, and attention, the crash would have attracted had it been clearly deemed a TVI case.

A TVI is regarded as a use of force by the patrol, which requires additional reports and investigation to determine if its use was justified. It would also raise more questions about the use of the high-speed tactic, and could increase the patrol s liability for the crash if a lawsuit was filed. LaDeaux s mother said she has been urged to sue. The man in charge of the internal investigation of the fatal crash, Lt. Dennis Leonard, the head of the patrol s internal affairs unit, said he believes a TVI was used and it was appropriate. Still, he was disappointed and disheartened by the change of stories, plus what he perceived to be pressure from higher-ups to alter the narrative.

I never thought this likely, but I must say that I no longer believe we are capable of objectively investigating our own, Leonard stated in a Nov. 4 email obtained through a public records request. Col. Brad Rice, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said he has the utmost confidence that the patrol can objectively investigate its own personnel. He said that differences of opinion over such incidents are not uncommon in agencies.

The disagreements in this case in no way changed the outcome, or what was presented to the grand jury, Rice said. The jury, he emphasized, found no wrongdoing.

However, Leonard, who has since retired, said truth was the biggest casualty in this case.

We re supposed to be objective and tell the truth. We re not supposed to imagine or create a narrative and find facts that match, he said in an interview. TVIs have been used by the State Patrol since 2010. In the maneuver, a trooper uses the front corner or bumper of the patrol car to push the back quarter panel of a fleeing vehicle, forcing it to spin out and stall. Troopers can then surround and apprehend the disoriented driver, bringing a potentially dangerous highway chase to a safe conclusion. But on Oct. 3, something went wrong.

The chase began about 10:25 p.m. when Flick, on a routine patrol north of Gordon on Nebraska Highway 27, noticed a car run a stop sign as it turned onto the highway. After Flick confirmed that there was a stop sign at the intersection, he turned around and gave chase, the engine of his 2014 Dodge Charger roaring. Ninety seconds into the pursuit, the trooper s dashboard video showed the cruiser s emergency lights flashing and its sirens blaring. The fleeing vehicle, a gray 2001 Mercury Sable with darkened windows and no license plates, turned west onto a gravel road.

Dust was flying and the chink, chink of rocks hitting the patrol cruiser can be heard.

Speeds right now eight-zero, eight-zero, Flick told the dispatcher. The chase turned northward onto another gravel road as the trooper can be heard dialing his phone. The Mercury swayed back and forth across the roadway.

Request use of TVI when appropriate, he said to Sgt. Kevin Waugh, mentioning when nearby ditches were shallower and there was no traffic.

Ten-four, responded Waugh, who asked if there were any passengers.

(The patrol s policy on the use of a TVI requires consideration of passengers in the fleeing vehicle, the condition and width of the roadway, and whether the fleeing driver is showing total disregard for public safety, such as driving at other vehicles.)

Flick, over his radio, said he believed there was only one passenger. In actuality, there were three passengers. The fleeing vehicle skidded around a corner and turned back onto Highway 27, about 12 miles from the South Dakota border.

About a half mile down the highway, Flick called out, Attempting TVI, attempting TVI.

Ten-four, attempting TVI, said the dispatcher. The dashcam video shows the collision and its aftermath. First, Flick steered his cruiser to behind the driver s side of the Mercury, but the fleeing car cut him off, veering to the left, past the highway s center line.

The trooper then steered to the right side of the vehicle. The passenger-side wheels of the trooper s cruiser went to the right edge of the pavement. A mailbox appeared on the shoulder, coming up fast. As the Mercury slowly crept to the right, Flick s cruiser appeared to veer to the left, bumping the Mercury. The cruiser then accelerated forward as the Mercury spun out of the video screen to the right, debris flying.

LaDeaux, 32, was ejected and died instantly. He was not using a seat belt, unlike the other occupants of the car.

Goll dangit, can be heard on the radio. After Flick stopped his cruiser and backed up, the video shows the smoldering Mercury, which rolled into the ditch and came to rest on its wheels.

Scottsbluff, TVI conducted. One ejected. Need 10-55, 10-55 …, Flick radioed in a loud voice, using the code to dispatch an ambulance.

Oh, crap, said the trooper as he stepped out of his patrol car and saw LaDeaux s body.

Got one 10-65, one 10-65, Flick said, which is the code for probable death. The dispatcher then called for a volunteer rescue squad to be dispatched from Gordon.

He TVI d the vehicle. One got ejected and he s 10-65 … looks like 2 miles north (of town), she said.

Moments later, Flick encountered the three passengers as they sat dazed in the Mercury. One was LaDeaux s younger brother, Cameron LaDeaux, 30.

Why did you have to ram us like that? he shouted at Flick.

I did not ram you. I did not ram you, Flick responded, as he urged the injured brother to remain seated. Moaning and screaming can be heard in the background. Check on my brother, yelled Cameron LaDeaux. A short time later, Flick reported in, Speed was five-zero, five-zero when TVI was conducted.

Ten-four, responded the dispatcher. Fifty.

Soon, the accident scene was buzzing with Gordon fire and rescue personnel. At one point Flick can be heard talking on a cellphone to someone.

I TVI d a car, he said. I m fine. I ll talk to you as soon as I can. Later, in response to an apparent question, he said into the phone, No. I followed policy. We re good. But it didn t take long for the story about the crash to change, and for an exchange of emails and memos to begin within the patrol that questioned the differing accounts, particularly whether the incident was a TVI or not.

In an email and a memo, the trooper s commander, Capt. Jamey Balthazor, who heads the Panhandle troop of the patrol, said Flick had told him in a roadside meeting a couple of hours after the crash that LaDeaux had caused it by steering into his cruiser. When Flick was asked by grand jurors why his story had changed, the trooper said he didn t realize until later that he had not used a TVI. Flick said he turned left into the fleeing car, as he would during a TVI, as a defensive maneuver to avoid being pushed into the ditch.

When he hit me, for all intents and purposes, he actually TVI d himself using my car, Flick told the grand jurors, according to a transcript of the testimony.

But that wasn t the only version of the crash given to the 16 members of the Sheridan County grand jury. The patrol s trainer of the tactic, Sgt. Cody Paro, told jurors it definitely was a TVI, and a textbook case of when it s needed.

You had a vehicle that was driving at a high rate of speed, it was driving in a dangerous manner, Paro said. The accident reconstructionist who reviewed the crash, Sgt. Travis Wallace, had a slightly different interpretation of the collision. He testified that the video showed the mechanics of a TVI, but he felt that it was unintentional.

TVIs are not common, Paro told jurors, but are used between five and 11 times a year by the patrol, out of about 80 high-speed chases a year. To do a TVI, a trooper must be trained in the maneuver and must obtain permission from a superior, Paro said. While it s not clear on the dashcam recording, Rice said that permission was granted. Patrol policy also requires proper backup before using it so that other troopers are available for a quick arrest, which wasn t the case in the Oct. 3 crash.

The policy, which was presented to the grand jury, says that high speed is a consideration in approving a TVI because that makes the maneuver less predictable and increases the chance of a crash and injuries. Flick s speed at the time of the crash was estimated at nearly 67 mph much higher than the 50 mph he reported on the night of the incident. Paro testified that troopers train TVIs at 45 or 50 mph, but the maneuver can be done at higher speeds. Yet the patrol trainer said he was shocked to see that LaDeaux s car had rolled instead of spun out.

Paro speculated that the fleeing car may have hit some kind of obstruction in the ditch. Maybe the ditch was too narrow, suggested one grand juror. Paro said he wasn t going to sugarcoat it, but that could be a risk. Jurors asked Flick why he reported his speed at 50 mph when an accident reconstructionist concluded it was nearly 67 mph. The trooper responded that 50 was the last reading he saw on his speedometer. Flick conceded that he didn t know his speed at the time of the crash.

Juror No. 14 asked: Would you have attempted a TVI if you knew four people were in the car? Probably not, he responded. Then another grand juror asked: How could a patrol investigator conclude the incident was a textbook case of using a TVI if it wasn t one? Flick responded: The best explanation I can give you is that the instructor s conclusions came from watching the video where I m actually driving the car.

Well, responded Grand Juror No. 13. I can see by watching and listening to you, I can see where you were more defensive driving. I just don t understand (the instructor s) testimony, I guess.

I wish I could help you more. I really do, said Flick.

The patrol declined requests to talk to Flick as well as Capt. Balthazor, saying that Rice would respond on their behalf. Flick was required to take a breath test following the crash, which showed no evidence of impairment. He was en route to Chadron for a blood-alcohol test a couple of hours later when he met his commander, Balthazor, on the highway between Gordon and Rushville. That s the first indication that the account of the crash had changed.

Balthazor, in an email the next morning, told the patrol s public information officer that LaDeaux s car had swerved towards me, quoting Flick, causing the contact. Later that same afternoon, Balthazor s immediate supervisor, Maj. Mike Gaudreault, recommended in an email that the trooper and others not undergo a psychological debriefing because the incident was an accident, caused by the fleeing driver, not a use of force case involving a TVI. That was when Leonard, who was heading the patrol s internal affairs unit, entered the picture. His job was to review such incidents to determine whether troopers acted appropriately, and in the case of use of force such as a TVI, whether the trooper s actions were justified.

In an Oct. 5 email, two days after the crash, Leonard said the dashcam video from Flick s patrol car clearly showed a TVI. He urged Balthazor to help Flick complete a report that appropriately reflects that. But four hours after getting the email from Leonard, Balthazor suggested corrections in a critique of the incident being done by one of his field commanders, Lt. Kevin Krzyzanowski, to reflect that there was no TVI, and that the accident was caused by the fleeing driver.

I hate being too critical … but many eyes will see the critique, he told Krzyzanowski. Rice, the patrol s superintendent, rejected a suggestion that Capt. Balthazor and Maj. Gaudreault were trying to influence the outcome of the incident review, saying they have a responsibility to lead those under their command. Rice also said that no pressure was exerted on Leonard to back off his internal investigation.

Four days after the crash, as the debate over what had happened intensified, Rice told Trooper Flick that he would be restored to active duty. Flick returned to work on Oct. 10, a week after the crash. Rice said he could not comment specifically, because of the union contract, about why he made that decision then, but that generally, he works quickly to resolve matters that take troopers off the road. As late as Nov. 22, almost two months after the crash, a patrol investigator who reviewed the incident reports, Lt. Brent Bockstadter, urged changes in them. Flick, he said, was clearly engaged in an appropriate TVI. Rice said he could not comment on whether the reports were amended.

When the grand jury met two weeks later, LaDeaux s brother, Cameron, who was in the fleeing car, testified that Flick s car shoved us off the road … and then we started flipping.

It was bullshit. … He killed a good man, Cameron LaDeaux said. He said that his brother fled the trooper because he was scared and didn t want to go to jail. Another person in the car, Alanna Rosales of Gordon, said Antoine LaDeaux told them things would be OK if he could outrun the trooper to the state line.

Alicia Munoz of Rapid City, South Dakota, the fourth occupant of the car, said the group had drank like a gallon of spice rum and vodka during the several hours prior to the crash. LaDeaux s blood-alcohol level tested at .239, almost three times the legal limit, after the accident. LaDeaux had been in trouble with the law before, serving nine months in prison for a criminal mischief conviction in 2003, and then nearly three years, ending in 2008, for two counts of burglary and assaulting a law enforcement officer.

Six months before the crash, LaDeaux had been released from probation for a first-offense drunken driving conviction in Scotts Bluff County. But his mother, Cleo LaDeaux, 57, of Gordon, said he was doing well in the weeks prior to the crash. Antoine, she said, was scheduled to graduate this spring from a community college on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and planned to become a homebuilder.

He said he was going to build a house for me, his mother said. I have a lot of pain over losing my oldest son.

Rice, the head of the State Patrol, said he viewed the video of the incident, and felt the trooper reacted appropriately in a difficult situation.

The legal process was followed and the grand jury came to their determination. The system worked, Rice said. Leonard, who retired Dec. 31 after a 30-year career with the patrol, said in an interview that he d never before encountered such interference from a higher level to influence the conclusion of an investigation. He declined to name the higher officials, saying the emails and records speak for themselves.

Leonard, who now works as a security officer at Hastings College, said he was glad that others at the patrol who reviewed the crash also concluded a TVI was used, and that it was appropriately used under the circumstances.

So why did others feel a need to say it wasn t a TVI?

I have an opinion about what was going on, but I can t speak to what was coming out of their hearts and minds, Leonard said. I don t know.

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