SHELDON—Hallucinating after using methamphetamine, Thomas Tuttle told authorities he thought he shot one man in the legs and killed a police officer hours before he allegedly brought a gun into a Sheldon convenience store.
The Watertown, SD, man also told members of the Sheldon Police Department he came to town with “bad intentions,” wanted a violent confrontation with law enforcement, he’s not a safe person to be around and that meth had taken over his mind, according to court documents.
The Mail-Sun reviewed details such as these after a court filing by the Sheldon Police Department because publicly available.
The filing included an application for a search warrant for Tuttle’s cellphone records, chief Lyle Bolkema’s nine-page investigative report on the case and a voluntary witness statement.
Tuttle is facing federal charges of one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person stemming from the alleged Nov. 2 incident where he brought he loaded 9 mm Kel-Tec carbine into the Casey’s General Store at 504 Second Ave. and left with a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes without paying.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were called in to help apprehend Tuttle, who was found asleep at the wheel of his 2002 Oldsmobile Alero. He later told Sheldon police he had been living in his car and had been surviving by stealing gas and merchandise from Walmart.
A stun gun was used on Tuttle during his arrest and he was treated at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center.
Shortly after, Bolkema arrived and escorted Tuttle and Sheldon police officer Brian Wielenga, who accompanied the suspect to the hospital, to the station for an interview.
High on meth
Starting at 8:19 a.m. Friday, Nov. 2 — about three and a half hours after Casey’s employees reported a man walking into the store carrying a rifle — Bolkema and Wielenga started questioning Tuttle, which led to him revealing details of his drug use, personal problems and troubles with the law.
The officers began by asking Tuttle why he was in Sheldon — a question asked repeatedly throughout the interview — and he said he bad intentions but did not specify. He then started talking about the Casey’s incident.
Tuttle told officers the reason he brought the gun in the store was in case “you guys” were there when he left. He compared the moment to an out-of-body experience. He also said he intended to pay for the cigarettes, but when he reached his pocket he didn’t have money.
Tuttle followed up by admitting he was high on meth and said he thought he had a dead officer in the back seat of his car while he was in the store. When he returned to his vehicle, looked in the back seat and saw that no one was there.
During his interview, Tuttle was again asked why he was in Sheldon. He said he didn’t want to be close to home to execute his plan but refused to divulge what his plan was. Tuttle then told officers he wanted to “shoot this kid in the legs.”
Planned to rob bank
Officers later found the “kid” in a question, a 20-year-old male who resides in Sheldon. He was unharmed. Later in the report, Bolkema theorized that Tuttle came to Sheldon to meet with the male.
The two had met on Grindr, a social media platform/dating app tailored for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.
Tuttle refuted that, again saying he only came to town for bad intentions, which again he refused to specify. Later on in the interview, he said he came to Sheldon to rob a bank. He hoped the money from the robbery would allow him to start a new life.
After confessing to shooting the 20-year-old Sheldon man, something he only imagined, Tuttle started telling officers about a drug deal he was supposed to be part of in the McDonald’s parking lot and how he thought undercover cops were waiting to bust him there.
The officers told him they were unaware of such an operation. They asked Tuttle again had he shot anyone that morning and he changed his story to say he only planned on shooting the Sheldon man.
Bolkema stepped out of the interview to have other officers track down the Sheldon man, who would later write a witness statement detailing his encounter with Tuttle. He told officers Tuttle was supposed to meet him at his place, but instead they met at Hy-Vee and went their separate ways from there.
After their meeting, Tuttle made threats to the Sheldon man, according to his witness statement:
He “started texting me that he was gunna shoot up my legs and wanted to kill me. So I broke every contact with him.”
Tuttle then brought back up the Casey’s incident during his interview with officers. He said had officers not found him asleep, “things would have gone differently” during his arrest. Tuttle also admitted he had no real reason to go to Casey’s other than seeking a confrontation with police since he already had cigarettes.
Officers again asked Tuttle why he had bad intentions against them.
Rather than avoiding the question as he had done before, Tuttle told officers he had issues with the Watertown Police Department.
He said the mother of his daughter started dating another man who Tuttle thought was dictating his relationship with the child.
Tuttle threatened the boyfriend and told him “he would take him out and end his life” and the man reported the incident to Watertown police, who later charged Tuttle.
Following the dive into his home life troubles, Tuttle jumped back to Casey’s. He told the officers that the female clerk working at the counter was brave and told him he couldn’t bring the gun in the store while everyone was shook.
Tuttle later asked could he talk to the people he pointed the gun at so he could apologize.
All over cigarettes
About an hour into the interview, Bolkema received a call from the Sheldon man who confirmed he was unharmed. Bolkema relayed that to Tuttle, who the chief said was relieved to hear to that.
Tuttle again brought up his issues in Watertown and pondered if he was looking at an attempted murder charge on a law enforcement officer, but Sheldon officers told me he was just looking at robbery charges for the Casey’s incident.
“Armed robbery charge for a pack of smokes,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle previously served more than a decade in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. He was released on March 29, 2018, according to the South Dakota Department of Corrections.
When officers later explained to him the charges he would face in Iowa, which have since been dropped due to the federal charges, Tuttle asked for something to eat before he transported to the O’Brien County Jail in Primghar.
Bolkema bought him a can of pop and a candy bar and someone fed him while his hands remained cuffed behind his back.
After saying he wanted to rob a bank in Sheldon, Tuttle told officers he scouted banks in Minnesota and intended to rob one in Sioux Falls, SD, but backed out because “cars started to show up that looked like undercovers and things got sketchy.”
Before being taken to jail, Tuttle again talked about his troubles in Watertown. He said disparaging things about the mother of his children and talked about his strained relationship with his siblings, his mother and father.
The situation with his ex and Watertown police are what he said were his breaking points. Tuttle told Sheldon police he never believed in depression before, but does now and that meth was all he had left.