A 55-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by South Dakota's chief law officer, who claimed to have no idea or recollection of how it happened.
Governor Kristi Noem released three hours of video from interviews showing the interrogation of the Republican Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg.
Ravnsborg—who was elected to his first term in 2018—had swerved his Ford Taurus while driving from a Republican fundraiser late on September 12 and fatally struck the victim, Joseph Boever, who was walking along the shoulder of Highway 14 west of Highmore.
But the Attorney General claimed he hit what he initially thought was something that looked like a "fawn or a deer in the ditch."
This was the moment South Dakota’s attorney General was told that the face of the man he hit and killed actually ca… https://t.co/pZXmcTUJCN— David Begnaud (@David Begnaud)1614145446.0
It was not until the next morning that he went back to the scene of the crash and discovered what he struck and killed was a man.
@DavidBegnaud How do hit “something” (even he thought it was a “deer”) and it breaks your windshield and he DOESN’T… https://t.co/pffhWiudFa— Amy Passas (@Amy Passas)1614147072.0
@nytimes He left a man to die on the side of the road ❌ https://t.co/ybeabP8U2m— BrownStar Lab (@BrownStar Lab)1614194628.0
In one of the interrogation videos from September 30, criminal investigators told an unsure Ravnsborg:
"His face was in your windshield, Jason, think about that."
@DavidBegnaud @lyzl This individual was/is the Attorney General of SD? And claims he didn't know he hit a human bei… https://t.co/zzLTciLv4W— Duane (@Duane)1614150330.0
You can watch the video in the news report, below.
Detectives pressed Ravnsborg on whether he was distracted on his cellphone at the time of the crash. They showed him records of his phone activity, including when he logged into his Yahoo email account and accessed a news website minutes before calling 911.
One of the investigators told Ravnsborg:
"So when we look at that, our concern is everything we are seeing here is it's appearing you were on your phone reading political stuff at the time."
"People make mistakes."
@DavidBegnaud This is on Ravnsborg. I don’t think he was drinking; sheriff would not have loaned a car if alcohol w… https://t.co/A1vitJHSGx— Me (@Me)1614191032.0
But Ravnsborg insisted he was not on his phone the moment his vehicle struck Boever, and prosecutors said his phone records showed his device was locked a minute before the crash.
Detectives additionally told him they found the victim's torn glasses—one half on the passenger-side floorboard, and the other in the backseat—and his bone scrapings on the rumble strip of the highway shoulder.
As they continued to describe how he swerved onto the shoulder and the impact from hitting Boever severely damaged his car hood and windshield, the chief law enforcement officer appeared distressed.
He told the investigators:
"I never saw him. I never saw him."
@DavidBegnaud This guy is lying thru his teeth he cant even look up while trying to keep his story straight. The fa… https://t.co/bQha1FB3n4— Official/UnOfficialActingANTIFAPRESIDENT ! (@Official/UnOfficialActingANTIFAPRESIDENT !)1614148806.0
@DavidBegnaud He couldn't look the officers in the eye.— Meg from Baltimore (@Meg from Baltimore)1614146009.0
Ravnsborg is facing three misdemeanor charges, but no felonies.
Governor Noem released the video footage from two separate interviews late Tuesday—one that took place two days after the car crash and the other several weeks later after investigators discovered more details.
When Ravnsborg said on Monday he would not resign after facing pressure to step down, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a resolution in the House to impeach him for "his crimes or misdemeanors in office causing the death" of Boever.
@nytimes Those who exercise the law MUST be held to a higher standard and should be given more severe punishment -… https://t.co/Qefz4k3CLi— Juan Yu (@Juan Yu)1614207754.0
@nytimes I am so troubled by this! The investigation needs to be continued into this accident. So far this has been… https://t.co/VJBouDStRf— AhrMan (@AhrMan)1614196433.0
According to AP News, Representative Will Mortensen—who sponsored the impeachment resolution—said:
"When we started looking through and thinking about the duties that the attorney general owes to the people of South Dakota, and I think he owes a special duty to protect the people and uphold the laws."
"And I think that the actions in these incidents fell short of that duty."
"This is not political and it is not personal. I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore."
Ravnsborg claimed he was not drinking before getting behind the wheel and publicly announced he had blood drawn by investigators. But the blood was taken the day after the crash at 1:30 pm.
Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price said the toxicology report indicated there was "zero" alcohol.