- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Sitting in the City Council chambers on Monday morning, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender’s eyes seemed focused on something far away as his mind conjured the memory of police officers Nick Armstrong and James Ryan McCandless.

The two Rapid City officers were shot and killed at a north-side intersection on Aug. 2, 2011, when Allender was still police chief.

The passage of five years has done little to dampen the pain for Allender and many others who consider that day one of the darkest in Rapid City history.

The fatal shooting of those two officers, and wounding of officer Tim Doyle by the same gunman, is one of the reasons Allender quietly gave when he announced his decision to step down as police chief in 2014 after 25 years in law enforcement.

Allender remembers feeling burdened with an overwhelming sense of guilt in the early days after Armstrong and McCandless were fatally shot during an initially routine interaction with some young men on Anamosa Street.

He knows there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have prevented what was a senseless and wholly unpredictable shooting. But that didn’t stop the former police chief from blaming himself for a long time.

“I felt I’d let the officers down and let their families down,” Allender told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/2awcqLd ).

Every police officer knows the risks, Allender said. Every day they put on the uniform and walk out the door is a day that could end the way it did five years ago at the corner of Anamosa and Greenbriar streets.

Allender expressed those thoughts as he smoothed his tie on Monday morning. For anyone involved, the memories remain painful and fresh.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, much like any other. Officers Armstrong, McCandless and Doyle stopped four suspicious men for carrying an open container at an intersection in North Rapid.

One of the men was Daniel Tiger, 22, a suspect in a recent burglary and armed robbery. They didn’t know it at the time, but Tiger had been arrested two weeks earlier for approaching police officers with a concealed knife.

They also didn’t know that when they stopped him, Tiger had marijuana in his system, a blood alcohol level of .098, and a .357-caliber handgun in his waistband.

After about 10 minutes, Tiger pulled the gun and started shooting. It was about 4:20 p.m.

All three officers were shot and rushed to Rapid City Regional Hospital. Doyle was injured, but survived. McCandless was pronounced dead that day, Armstrong a few days later. They were the first Rapid City police officers to be shot dead in the line of duty since 1916.

“Nick and Ryan were exemplary police officers,” recalls Assistant Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedricks. “Not a day goes by when we’re not thinking of them. As officers are getting ready and putting on their uniform, heading out to serve the community day in and day out, even @ night while some folks are sleeping, they remember the sacrifice that those officers gave this community.”

In the years since, a pair of memorials have been erected to honor the fallen officers, one at the scene of the shooting and another in Founders Park.

Allender used to think about the two men every day. He’s managed to find some peace since then. Nowadays, the mayor only relives that horrible day once or twice a week.

“I still think about the Armstrongs and McCandlesses,” Allender said. “I hope we never have to go through that again.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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