South Dakota News

School of Mines hosting demography conference
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is hosting a demography conference this week. The third annual 2015 South Dakota Demography Conference on Thursday and Friday will focus on forecasting the rural-urban divide in the state. The event features a mini-conference on the state of South Dakota's economy and sessions on poverty, racial disparities and economic growth. Other presentations will highlight changes in health and education, and hands-on workshops will focus on strategies for finding and working with data for strategic planning, policymaking and grant-writing. Friday's noon session titled "From Reservation to Rapid City" will discuss how does mobility within the Native American community affects businesses, schools, healthcare and policing.

Authorities looking for person who pointed laser at aircraft
MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — Police in Mitchell are looking for the person who has pointed a green laser at an aircraft and officers. Lt. Don Everson says the incidents involving the laser have happened over the last several weeks. Everson says someone has pointed the laser at officers in the vicinity of the softball diamonds near the Highway 37 bypass. But, Everson says, authorities are most concerned about the incident in which the laser was pointed at an aircraft west of Mitchell. Laser pointers are legal and are commonly used in classrooms, but it's a felony to aim them at aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration has reported an increase in people pointing lasers at aircraft in recent years. Everson says anyone with information about the incidents in Mitchell should contact police.

Fishermen find body of Sioux Falls man in Oakwood Lake
BRUCE, S.D. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities in eastern South Dakota say two fishermen found the body of a Sioux Falls man in Oakwood Lake. The Brookings County Sheriff's Office says the body of 73-year-old Martin Jepson was found floating in the lake around 2:30 p.m. Monday. The sheriff's office says the men noticed an empty vehicle when they were in the process of going fishing in the public access area on the south side of Oakwood Lakes State Park. They then saw the body about 20 feet from the shoreline. Jepson was pronounced dead at the scene after first responders were unsuccessful in their attempt to resuscitate him. The sheriff's office says foul play is not suspected, but an autopsy will be conducted to help determine the cause of death.

Police: Man stole bulldozer, used it to damage building
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A Colorado man is in custody in South Dakota after law enforcement authorities accused him of stealing a bulldozer and using it to damage a building and destroy a pickup truck. Police in Rapid City say 21-year-old Justin Thornley of Empire, Colorado, was arrested Sunday on felony charges of destruction of property and aggravated grand theft. Police say officers followed the bulldozer as it crossed a road traveling east into a field. They say Thornley also stuck electrical power poles and damaged concrete curbs while using the bulldozer. Police say officers had to use a less-lethal beanbag shotgun, pepper spray and a stun gun as they tried to arrest Thornley. Thornley also faces a misdemeanor count of obstructing a police officer. It's unclear whether Thornley has an attorney.

State waiting on word from feds about GEAR UP program future
FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) — Education Secretary Melody Schopp says the state is waiting for word from the U.S. Department of Education about the future of a Native American college-readiness program under scrutiny as part of an investigation into an apparent murder-suicide. Schopp said Tuesday that the state has asked its federal counterpart about transitioning the program to a new administrator. Mid-Central Educational Cooperative had been administering the GEAR UP program, but education officials pulled the federal contract last month. State authorities believe Mid-Central employee Scott Westerhuis killed his family and then himself hours after the state declined to renew the contract. A new contract could fall under the Board of Regents. Sherry Johnson is education director for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. She says children's services shouldn't be affected by the issues surrounding GEAR UP.

Former Rapid City mayor takes new job in home state of Iowa
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Former Rapid City mayor Sam Kooiker (KWAY'-kur) is taking a new job in his home state of Iowa. Kooiker will become city administrator of Cherokee, Iowa, by January. Cherokee is a city of about 5,500 people, about 50 miles from where Kooiker grew up in Boyden, Iowa. Kooiker served two terms as Rapid City's mayor, starting in 2011. He lost his re-election bid in June. He was defeated by former police chief Steve Allender, with whom he had clashed regularly.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press