RAPID CITY, S.D. – The night of July 11 turned into a night of horror for two local families, with the beating death of one juvenile and the arrest of another on murder charges.
Stephen R. Harrison, 17, has been charged with first-degree murder and is facing the charges as an adult. Pennington County States Attorney Glenn Brenner said the violence of the crime demands first-degree murder charges and warrants Harrison’s charge in adult court.
Cameron Ebel, 15, died of what authorities referred to as blunt-force head injuries. The incident occurred after a party at 3711 Hall St. in west Rapid City in which a number of teen-agers were allegedly consuming alcohol. Harrison was not at the party, but went to the residence later to confront Ebel.
Friends said Harrison went to the party because his 13-year-old sister, who had been at the party, came home and told him Ebel struck her because he was angry at a few people. She told Harrison that Ebel accused her and others of stealing or hiding his beer, Harrison’s friends said. Authorities told the media the fight was the result of a conflict over a girl.
“Steve’s intent was not what happened,” a friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, said.
“He got mad,” when he heard about his sister, another friend said.
One friend said Harrison called him the morning after the fight and didn’t know that Ebel was even in the hospital. “In his mind, he just worked him over.”
Harrison’s friends and family want people to know that he is human and not a monster as he is being portrayed in the media by the authorities.
Four friends spoke to Indian Country Today on the condition their names not be used. One knew Harrison for six or seven years, the others from six months to six years.
“He has a family and people care about him. The media paints the dark side of Steve, but he’s also a kid,” one said.
The four who knew him well said he would never intend to kill anyone. “He went to the house because of his sister.”
“Steve is very polite and courteous and respects his elders. This was a surprise to us. He is not a killer. He is not the type of guy who goes looking for a fight. He is not a violent person,” a friend said.
“I was shocked and in disbelief when I heard what happened. I cried, I was really sad,” one said.
Another said he knew him best, that they spent nearly every day together on dirt bikes, going to the lake and doing things teen-agers do. Harrison was interested in a lot of things including music, girls, the lake and dirt bikes and Harleys, the friend said.
“He was a typical teen. He played music too loud, talked about girls and ate everything in sight,” another said.
“We never heard him talk bad about anyone. If he got into a quarrel, the two involved would remain friends. He is not the big monster that goes looking for fights,” the friends said.
They said they were not allowed to visit Harrison while he is in jail. But, if they could tell him anything, they would say they are “still here for him and not closing the door.” His best friend would tell him that he “messed up.”
“We miss him.”
The question that is asked in the Rapid City American Indian community concerns the charges, which many people have said are excessive and would only be leveled at an American Indian. Harrison was quickly moved into adult court and also quickly charged with first-degree murder.
Brenner said the reason for the move to adult court is because a state statute demands the action because of the nature of the crime. He also said there is a deadline for charging a person and he was required to act within that deadline.
Brenner told Indian Country Today he had no idea Harrison was American Indian when he was working on the charges in the case. “We were just dealing with a person that had committed a crime.”
He said the charges were formulated by the evidence and that other, similar crimes in the state have seen quicker charges than this case.