An escapee from the state prison in Springfield was apprehended in Pierre Tuesday by the Central South Dakota SWAT team and U.S. Marshals, without use of lethal force after a three-hour standoff.
Just after noon, Tuesday, Jan. 14, authorities received a tip that Richard Barela of Pierre, on the lam since escaping from a prison work site in Yankton on Jan. 3, was in a single-family home just east of the Capitol on Summit Street, near Trinity Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Riggs High School.
The incident began at 12:05 p.m., Tuesday according to Pierre Police Capt. Bryan Walz.
Barela, 28, was serving a sentence of 10 years with four suspended that was handed down Sept. 17, 2019, in a Pierre court room after he had pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine in July in Pierre..
He was serving the time in the low-security state prison in Springfield when, on Jan. 3, 2020, he stole a state pickup truck from the Yankton work site and fled, prison officials said at the time. Barela has spent much of his life in and around Pierre and has enough experience in court rooms and jails so that prosecutors and police know him as Richie. He’s best known for leading law officers on a long, high-speed chase in April 2016, from Pierre to Harrold where he climbed up a high grain bin and wouldn’t come down for hours. That was all fueled by meth, he said at the time when he faced so many felony charges they added up to more than a century of possible prison time.
“That was the guy we were looking for,” Walz said.
Police Chief Jason Jones told the Capital Journal he was pleased that no one was injured in the stand off, saying it reminded him of the good law enforcement work done during the August 2018 standoff in Pierre when less-lethal weapons also were used.
Chief Jones shivered at the memory of this afternoon’s duty. It felt like sub-zero, with the air temperature in Pierre during those three hours at only 6 degrees above zero, with a raw east wind of 7-12 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
On Tuesday, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and federal marshals were at the house on East Summit soon after the information came out. Barela did not cooperate, barricading himself inside the house, using a mattress at one point.
“There was nobody (else) in the residence,” Walz said. “Everybody was taken out of the residence after he barricaded himself in the residence.”
The Hughes County Sheriff’s Office and Pierre Police Department together form the Central South Dakota SWAT (special weapons and tactics). Their commander is a police sergeant and the SWAT members do other jobs during their regular shifts. When a call for SWAT comes in, they suit up and report.
Officers tried to negotiate with Barela, but after three hours, the negotiations broke down, Walz said in the press release.
At that point, five loud pops could be heard from a 40 mm projectile launcher, part of the SWAT members’ set of less-lethal weapons.
“It was gas from a 40 mm projectile,” Walz said. “It was sent into the residence. It’s a combination of CS gas, (known as tear gas), and OC, which is oleoresin capsicum — pepper spray.”
Barela re-doubled his efforts to barricade himself in the home’s lower level. SWAT members broke out a window to see into the room. It looked like all the windows had been covered with blankets over the blinds.
At one point, Barela apparently lifted a mattress up to attempt to cover the broken window from inside the house, but he stayed out of sight. It was dark inside the home and there were still other windows covered. The officers used a hoe to break out a second window, as a police cruiser was driven up close to the windows so its headlights could shine into the room.
Behind ballistic shields, with Barela’s position known, officers deployed another less-lethal weapon.
“It’s actually a pepper-ball gun,” Walz said. “It’s just like a paint-ball gun, but inside the little balls is pepper spray, in a powder form. When we established where he was in the corner there, then those were shot over his head so it could rain down on him.
After the pepper spray rain, Barela surrendered and was placed into custody just after 3 p.m. and was led to an awaiting ambulance. He was transported to Avera St. Mary’s Hospital and checked out before being brought to the Hughes County Jail.
“As always we are happy when the situation ends well. We work so well with the other agencies within the community, especially the sheriff’s office and the marshals service when it comes to things like this,” Walz said. “It was just a well put-together plan, after we learned about the information.”
The incident report ended at 3:23 p.m. after beginning at 12:05 p.m.
“We are just glad we could get an escapee off the streets and move forward,” Walz said.