Dakota Rollin Black’s Facebook page paints a portrait too-often seen: A former prison inmate struggling to find his way, plagued by the cycle of drug abuse and mental health problems that repeatedly lead to frightening outbursts – and trouble with the law.
Rollercoastering between macho and humble, Black often seemed to be reaching out to social media for answers, such as a post in the summer of 2018:
“I just wanna feel wanted by someone other than the police.”
Three summers later, the police again wanted Dakota Black, looking to put him away for a long, long time.
Indeed, if convicted of the offenses in a crime spree he was accused of, the 26-year-old Black could have returned to prison for life.
Instead, he ended it.
Suspected of an armed robbery in east Mesa and facing a warrant for a gun-wielding assault in Chandler, the Mesa resident was being followed by undercover detectives the afternoon of Aug. 31.
Sgt. Charles Trapani of the Mesa Police Department said Black was driving a white Chevrolet pick-up truck on Broadway Road when he pulled onto an on-ramp to the Loop 202.
Black stopped his truck, got out “and attempted to carjack a gold Buick passenger car that was on the freeway ramp,” Trapani said, adding he “was unsuccessful with the carjacking and quickly returned to his truck.”
Mesa detectives and members of the U.S. Marshal’s Office Fugitive Task approached Black’s vehicle and ordered him to get out of the truck.
The suspect didn’t answer the commands: Black was dead, a smoking gun was in his lap.
He leaves behind a young son who, Black wrote on his Facebook header, “is my world. Daddy loves you buddy.”
Black’s Facebook posts end when he was hauled off to prison at the end of 2018.
After his release last summer, Black posted photos, often with his son, on Instagram.
Trapani said investigators determined Black shot himself “moments before police made contact with him.”
Trapani added police were after Black for an armed robbery in the 1500 block of S. Country Club in Mesa.
Trapani declined to give specifics, stating, “The armed robbery investigation he was involved with the day of his death is still on-going due to other suspects/accomplices being outstanding.”
According to information he posted on Facebook, Black attended Apache Junction High School, where he was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
His sister said despite his troubles, he was a cherished family member.
"We are nine months apart," Cheyenne Black, Dakota's sister, said. "We were very close not just in age but all the way together. We talked every day, many times a day ... Dakota loved his family. He would do anything to make sure his mom, siblings , son and whoever he loved was OK.
"Dakota had a heart of gold. His smile was everything -- he would light up a room with his big smile. Dakota lived a great childhood life. Dakota was not a monster."
According to information he posted on Facebook, Black was born in Flint, Michigan, before moving to Arizona. He attended Apache Junction High School, where he was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
He lived in Mesa and worked as a tow-truck driver in Phoenix in his early 20s, until his own wheels started falling off.
A troubled relationship with the mother of his son apparently sent him sprinting down a dark path.
“I (expletive) hate seeing all this Father’s Day stuff on Facebook. I wish I could see my little man I’ve had enough of this (expletive),” he posted, June 17, 2018, the day after Father’s Day.
By then, Black was awaiting sentencing.
A week after Father’s Day 2017, according to court documents, Black drove a pickup truck to his ex-girlfriend’s Mesa home.
“The victim told 911 dispatchers Dakota exited the vehicle with a gun in his hand and yelled for her to bring his son out of the house,” according to the court document.
While the ex-girlfriend was on the phone with 911, Black poured lighter fluid on her car and squirted some at her. As she ran into her house, she saw Black going to his truck to get a lighter.
The ex-girlfriend told a detective the gun-waving Black stormed the house and tried to break down the door.
Knowing deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the 911 call, were after him, Black posted on Facebook:
“Mannn do I just wanna get hit by a greyhound bus today.”
The day after that post, and two weeks after he lit his ex-girlfriend’s car on fire, Black turned himself in.
“I guess I’m going back to jail right now,” he posted, a few weeks later. “Love you all.”
The burly Black, listed on his prison records as 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, admitted guilt to aggravated assault. Under a plea deal, arson and other charges were dropped, and Black was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Black walked in the gates of Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence Dec. 4, 2018.
He was far from a model prisoner.
According to Arizona Department of Corrections records, less than two months after he entered prison, Black assaulted a staff member. He later was found guilty of disrupting a prison count, refusing a work assignment, unauthorized smoking, theft and refusal to take a drug test.
Despite four “minor” and two “major” offenses, Dakota Black walked out of prison Aug. 10, 2020 — 10 months before his prison sentence was to expire. But he had a credit of six months of time served in county jail, so was only released about four months early.
The Tribune asked the Arizona Department of Corrections why Black had an early release, despite his offenses while incarcerated.
Bill Lamoreaux, a Department of Corrections spokesman, explained “he earned one day for every six days served.
“He was admitted to ADCRR custody with 184 jail credits, and lost days through the disciplinary actions,” he said. “All of these factors gave him an absolute discharge date of Aug. 10, 2020, completing his court sentence.”
Three-and-a-half years ago, Black made an ominous Facebook post: “Like thanks. My doctor told me that I am not mentally stable and that I’m a ticking time bomb.”
Again, the replies from friends varied drastically, from those advising “counseling and meds” to dismissive comments like “(expletive) a doctor” and “straight jacket lol.”
Less than a year after his release from prison, Black’s “time bomb” apparently started ticking, again.
Court records say Black followed his former script, attempting to settle a dispute by grabbing a gun and forcibly entering a home.
According to a probable cause document, on the night of June 27, Black and an unidentified male stormed into a home near Chandler Regional Medical Center.
“Dakota approached the only occupant inside the residence. Pointing the firearm at the victim, Dakota then committed armed robbery and aggravated assault when he ordered the victim to turn over his wallet. Dakota then proceeded to punch the victim in the face,” the report states.
“Dakota and the co-defendant then ransacked a second victim’s bedroom stealing an AR-15 rifle, Sony PlayStation 4 and his birth certificate.”
Two nights later, Nathan Duncan, a detective with the Chandler Police Department, tracked Black down at the Broadview Motel in east Mesa.
According to Duncan’s report, Black jumped out a motel window, “fled from police on foot and discarded narcotic drugs before being apprehended.”
The detective wrote that Black admitted he went to the Chandler residence to get his property back, but said he was punched first before defending himself.
“Dakota also indicated that the items he discarded before the police apprehended him was a narcotic drug. The drug was hundreds of M30 fentanyl pills which Dakota admitted to using,” the detective wrote.
Duncan also wrote that two handguns were found in the backpack of Black, noting, “Dakota is a prohibited possessor and is currently on probation.”
After his arrest on multiple charges, Black spent a couple nights in jail, then was released.
Black skipped an Aug. 27 court date. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge issued a warrant for Black’s arrest.
Knowing he was likely headed back to prison for probation violation and other charges, a desperate Black apparently went on yet another crime spree.
Then, using the gun he had threatened others with for years, he shot himself.
“‘I’m up crying because I miss my little boy,” Dakota Black posted as his world was going to pieces. “I just wanna see him for a little bit so bad I hate this (expletive) I’m going thru.”