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Turner County Sheriff Recalls Fatal Shooting

August 3, 2011, 6:00 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Turner County Sheriff Recalls Fatal Shooting
PARKER, SD - The death of an officer in Rapid City is hitting home for other law enforcement offices across South Dakota. All are wearing black bands on their badges in remembrance of Officer James McCandless. For a southeast South Dakota office, it’s bringing back memories of a fatal event nearly two and a half years ago.

In the early morning hours of March 15, 2009, officers from all across eastern South Dakota responded to the report of a shooting outside of Marion. That's where Turner County Deputy Chad Mechels was shot and killed while responded to a "check wellbeing" call.

The news of another fatal shooting hits close to home for those who worked with Mechels.

A makeshift shrine still sits outside the Turner County Sheriff's office as a tribute to Mechels. For Turner County Sheriff Byron Nogelmeier, the memories of Mechels’ final day will never fade.

"If you've ever had a traumatic experience in your life, you remember them things. If you've ever been shocked by an electric fence, you probably remember the first time that happened and how it feels and you remember that. This is a shock, again," Nogelmeier said.

Nogelmeier says the weeks and months following the death of Mechels were extremely difficult. But at the same time, law enforcement officers know they have a job to do. He says he expects the same is happening in Rapid City as officers protect and serve their community today.

"Whether you're a big agency or small agency, there's still work that needs to be done. The officers on the street yet are still doing their job, and does something like this affect them? I'm sure it does; I know it does," Nogelmeier said.

In the two years and five months that have passed since the fatal Turner County shooting, Nogelmeier says he wishes he could report that things have changed in his county. But the truth is deputies still mostly respond on their own and backup can be 10 to 15 miles away.

"They had three officers there and somebody still died. An officer still died. So would four officers make it different? I don't know. Things happen quick. Things happen quick," Nogelmeier said.

Mechels' death brought departments from around the region together in a showing of respect and brotherhood. And if needed, Rapid City officers are sure to have a shoulder to lean on in this difficult time.

"I hope the officers take advantage of it if they feel they're having problems. It can sneak up on you; you don't even know when it’s going to happen," Nogelmeier said.

On top of the emotional toll, Nogelmeier adds that there are several other stressing factors that the department will have to deal with including an abundance of phone calls and the paper work that comes with an incident like this.

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