Lucian Celestine, a 29-year-old Rapid City man, was arrested June 30 at his home with his new high-powered rifle in the trunk of his car and voices in his head telling him to “hike to the top of Mount Rushmore and shoot the president from the tops of the foreheads of the presidents,” according to federal authorities.
This was three days before President Donald Trump joined Gov. Kristi Noem for a rally beneath the four unfurrowed brows on Mount Rushmore with 7,500 in the outdoor audience, according to federal court documents.
It turned out the only fireworks at Mount Rushmore on July 3 were owing to Noem who put on a big show for Trump and the country for a national TV audience and no assassination attempt took place.
Celestine has been in the Pennington County Jail in Rapid City since June 30. This week, U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons announced a federal grand jury in Rapid City has indicted Celestine on charges that could mean 10 years in prison if he were to be convicted.
Celestine also has used the name “Lucian Unddascha Celestineaeterus” and the name he apparently was given at birth, Dillon Joseph Calvetti, according to court documents.
Celestine/Calvetti is a third-generation of Rapid City residents on both sides of his family. One of his late grandfathers was a barber and cowboy in the area, according to online records.
In a superseding indictment handed down Sept. 18, a grand jury charged Celestine/Calvetti with a count of threatening to kill the president and a count of “having been committed previously to a mental institution and then knowing he had been committed previously to a mental institution, did knowingly possess a firearm, to wit” the Browning rifle he showed federal agents in the trunk of his car.
There’s quite a backstory on Celestine/Calvetti.
On his social media page, Celestine has posted a picture of a rampant American bald eagle with the phrase: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” popular among 18th-century revolutionaries — such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
Law officers had him on their radar of people saying they might kill Trump since at least a year ago.
Yet from court documents, it appears it got down to the last few days before Trump came to Mount Rushmore that law officers saw and grabbed the rifle in the trunk of his car and grabbed Celestine.
According to the affidavit filed July 2 by Rapid City Police Detective Chad Sayles in support of the initial complaint supporting Celestine’s quick arrest on June 30: Sayles, assigned to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a task force officer, said that in June 2020 the Secret Service learned Celestine had tried to acquire firearms on the website “Armslist.”
Celestine’s/Cavetti’s name rang a bell because he had contacted the FBI on Sept.1, 2019 “and stated he heard the voice of God instructing him to kill people. Celestine also has stated he believed President Donald Trump was a rapist and he had an urge to kill rapists. Celestine had also stated he did not have the means or desire to harm anyone.”
According to Sayles, the Secret Service said that on Nov. 14, 2019, Celestine called the U.S. Secret Service Protective Intelligence Operation Center “to report he had strong urges to kill rapists and that he had heard voices telling him President Trump raped his aunt.”
Celestine in November told the Secret Service “he had not taken any steps to meet the voices’ demands and did not plan to purchase a weapon or travel. Celestine also stated the purpose of his call was to exonerate the president because he was not behind the voices in his head.”
Things changed by this summer, according to Sayles: An investigation started June 29, 2020, by two federal agents “revealed Celestine had attempted to purchase a firearm in the previous week.”
A person in Brookings called law officers to say Celestine had tried to buy a .308 caliber rifle the person had advertised for sale. But Celestine “acted strangely and did not seem to know much about firearms, though he acted like he did.” Celestine wanted the Brookings person to ship the gun, along with a scope and ammo, to Rapid City by June 26. So the gun owner contacted the state Division of Criminal Investigation which contacted the Secret Service, according to Detective Sayles’ affidavit.
On June 30, the two federal agents asked a Pennington County Sheriff’s deputy to help them find Celestine in Rapid City to talk to him. Outside Celestine’s residence, the three officers met Celestine’s mother (who has a different last name) who said she was not concerned that her son would hurt others or himself. But, she “described how Celestine did hear a lot of voices. When asked if he had acted on them she went on to state she was aware of it. She stated Celestine had recently been determined to be schizophrenic and he was hearing voices,” according to Sayles
Celestine then came outside on to the porch and talked to the officers.
He acknowledged his previous contacts with law enforcement and said he did now own a gun and it was in the trunk of his car. He gave the officers permission to search his car and home and his medical records.
He opened the trunk of his car where officers saw a Browning X Bolt 300 Winchester Magnum bolt-action rifle.
It’s a well-respected weapon and the .30 caliber “magnum” cartridge, introduced nearly 60 years ago, is popular and used in many brands of hunting and target rifles. The term “magnum” means the cartridge is “necked down” from a casing for a larger caliber bullet so more powder, as in power, will be behind a smaller, lighter .30 cal. bullet that is more accurate at long ranges than the heavier .375 caliber bullet the casing originally was made for.
According to the affidavit, in the trunk with the rifle, Celestine had six full boxes of ammo and one box with one of the 20 rounds missing. A receipt from First Stop Gun showed he had bought seven boxes of ammo and four targets on June 29, at 2:45 p.m.
He let the officers search his bedroom where they found “no evidence or information material to the instant request for a criminal complaint.”
Celestine told the officers he had recently received a disability check for $14,000 and used it to to buy a car ($3,000) and the rifle ($1,700); he had given his mother about $5,000 he owed her and he had about $5,000 remaining.
According to Sayles’ affidavit, Celestine told the officers he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2018 and quit taking his medication “because he did not like how it made him feel.” He said he smoked marijuana daily and that it helps him relax and (helps) with the symptoms of his mental illness.”
Sayles said court records show Celestine was involuntarily committed to the state Human Services Center, a psychiatric hospital in Yankton, in October 2019. He was found to be a danger to others and after a hearing before the Pennington County Board of Mental Illness, he was committed to the Yankton institution for “a period not to exceed 90 days.”
Sayles signed his affidavit July 2 and the same day U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman ordered an arrest warrant be issued for Celestine, who had been in the County Jail in Rapid City since June 30 when he showed agents his rifle.
On Sept. 11, Wollmann ordered him detained based on the Aug. 20 indictment that charged him only with a count of illegally possessing a firearm.
Celestine appeared in court via video from jail on Sept. 11, pleaded not guilty to the illegal gun possession count brought Aug. 20 and sought his release.
Wollmann took his plea but said there is a serious risk he won’t appear for court hearings and that he “will endanger the safety of another person or the community,” according to court documents
The grand jury’s indictment provides probable cause that Celestine did what he’s charged with, Wollmann wrote. “(T)he defendant’s history and personal characteristics, including the defendant’s character, physical and mental condition, history of alcohol and illegal substance abuse, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in this community, community ties, past conduct, criminal history, as well as court appearance record,” argue for keeping him behind bars while his case proceeds through court, Wollmann ruled.
The superseding indictment adding the count of threatening to kill the president to the first count of illegally possessing the rifle having been in the mental hospital was handed down Sept. 17. The grand jury charged that Celestine/Calvetti “stated his intention to hike to the top of Mount Rushmore and shoot the president from the tops of the foreheads of the presidents. . . “
On Sept. 15, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken set a schedule for Celestine’s court proceedings, including a jury trial — if it goes that way — set for Nov. 17 in Rapid City.
Thomas Harmon, an assistant federal public defender, was appointed to represent Celestine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Kelderman is prosecuting Celestine.
The Pennington County State’s Attorney also apparently charged Celestine in August with making a terroristic threat, a Class 5 felony that carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in state prison. He’s being held on that charge in the jail on $1 million cash-only bond, as well as the federal hold in place since June, according to online records from the jail.
Federal courts normally do not allow bonds, but detain or release defendants awaiting trial based on a judge’s decision.