bikers in pierre

Jody Simonton, Lori Simonton and Adrian Wickherst, from left, get ready to head their motorcycles out to Sturgis after lunch Wednesday, Aug. 12, at Richie Z's BBQ & Grill in Pierre. The three, plus a family member driving the black pickup truck as a support vehicle, plan to spend the last five says of the 2020 Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis before returning home Sunday to Watertown, South Dakota.

Law enforcement officers seized relatively large amounts of cash Thursday in what were, apparently, at least two arrest incidents, one in Sturgis and one in the adjacent Rapid City District in the Black Hills, according to information from the Highway Patrol in daily reports on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

By that measure, and traffic counts, this year’s rally remains near in size to recent ones, despite questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic would, and should, affect the legendary biker event.

A total of $15,467 in cash was seized Thursday during the arrests, according to daily reports from Tony Mangan, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Highway Patrol. But Mangan on Friday told the Capital Journal he could not release much information about the arrests because they are ongoing investigations.

A total of $4,658 in cash was seized Thursday in Sturgis, during one or more arrests; while $10,809 was seized in the Rapid City District in one or more arrests, according to Mangan’s report.

Several days ago, $2,520 was seized in a drug arrest in Sturgis and $776 in an arrest in the Rapid City District.

That makes a total of $18,763 in cash seized in the area during arrests since the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally opened on Friday, Aug. 7. The rally will close its annual 10-day event on Sunday, Aug. 16.

The big question has been about how much the COVID-19 pandemic might affect attendance and other activity during the legendary rally, now marking its 80th anniversary.

Based on daily law enforcement reports on suspected crimes and traffic crashes, as well as an official state tally of vehicles entering Sturgis, it appears this year’s rally is running pretty close to last year’s.

A total of 431 arrests for alleged DUIs and drug offenses were made from 6 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 8, to 6 a.m., Friday, Aug. 14, in the two districts, an 8.3% increase over the 398 arrests made for the same six days, according to an analysis of Mangan’s report.

The DUI arrests totaled 117, compared with 136 last year; the misdemeanor drug arrests totaled 2020, up from 172 last year; and the felony drug arrests in both districts totaled 112 during the six days, up from 90 in 2019.

Total citations were 1044, up from 1028 in 2019.

There have been seven vehicles seized, all in Sturgis, in connection with arrests, which usually are for alleged drug offenses. A year ago at the same time, three vehicles had been seized.

Three people have died in traffic crashes, including a 55-year-old woman who died Thursday in a Rapid City hospital after the motorcycle she was a passenger on hit a calf standing in the road on Wednesday. That’s up from one traffic death by the eighth day in 2019.

According to Mangan, a 55-year-old man was driving a 2019 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Ultra Limited about 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 12, when it struck a calf standing in the driving lane on U.S. Highway 16 about 7 miles east of Hill City. The man and woman were thrown from the bike when it tipped. She was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries and died on Thursday. The driver sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. No charges are pending, Mangan said. Neither was wearing a helmet.

Also on Friday, Mangan released the names of a Texas man and a New York man killed Monday, Aug. 10, when one bike went over the center line and hit two oncoming bikes.

William Cooper, 22, College Station, Texas, died after being airlifted to a Rapid City hospital. One of the men he hit, Ronald Ratzel, 55, of Ceres, New York, was pronounced dead at the scene. Steven Peterson, 60, of Cuba, New York, sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. It happened about 5:15 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10, about 3 miles west of Sturgis on U.S. Highway 14A. Cooper, westbound on a 2015 Harley-Davidson, failed to make a curve and collided with the two eastbound men: Ceres on a 2014 Indian motorcycle and Peterson on a 2005 Harley. None of the three was wearing a helmet.

Among the 47 injury crashes so far this year — compared with 42 last year — was one caused by a buffalo:

About 5 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Custer State Park about 50 miles south of Sturgis, on U.S. Highway 16A, about 20 miles east of the town of Custer, a lane full of stopped vehicles, including a 2006 Suzuki GSX motorcycle driven by a 36-year-old man, were waiting for a buffalo herd to cross the road. As the Suzuki driver began moving as the herd had passed, a buffalo re-entered the roadway and the biker lost control as he swerved to miss the buffalo. The driver, who was wearing a helmet, sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. No charges are pending, Mangan said.

Through the first seven days of the Rally, the number of vehicles counted entering Sturgis was down 7.5% from the same period in 2019, according to the state Department of Transportation.

According to Kristi Sandal, spokeswoman for the DOT, 365,979 vehicles were counted at nine locations entering Sturgis from Friday, Aug. 7 through Thursday, Aug. 13. That compared with 395,453 in 2019.

The automatic vehicle count measures any vehicle entering, does not account for how many people on or in each vehicle or how many times any vehicle might enter Sturgis on a given day.

In recent years, the vehicle count has averaged about 500,000 for the 10 days of the rally. The last weekend, the numbers have dropped off markedly, as the gradual shift has been for more people to arrive early and leave early, organizers said.

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