south dakota

South Dakota Attorney General Reported Hitting a Deer But Fatally Struck a Pedestrian

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg speaking in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in September of last year. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

On Saturday night, South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer on U.S. Highway 14 while making the 110-mile drive back from a fundraiser in Redfield to the state’s capital city, Pierre. The next day, it emerged that Ravnsborg’s SUV had actually struck and killed 56-year-old Joe Boever as the man was returning to his pickup, which was stuck on the side of the road after a prior collision with a hay bale.

Ravnsborg’s office said he had immediately called 911 after the accident, but the South Dakota Department of Public Safety stated on Monday that he had informed the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office only of his collision with a deer; the department did not state whether he’d reported the crash to 911. On Sunday night, Governor Kristi Noem announced that the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation would oversee the probe into the crash and its aftermath. Noem added that the Attorney General’s office is not involved in the investigation. Also on Sunday, Ravnsborg released a statement saying he was “shocked and filled with sorrow” and would cooperate with the inquiry. “At this time I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family,” it read.

Information about the crash continued to spool out on Monday. In a statement provided to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Ravnsborg said that it was he who found Boever’s body on Sunday morning, upon returning to the site of the incident. “As I walked along the shoulder of the road I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway,” Ravnsborg wrote. “My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”

Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec, a former South Dakota state legislator, was asked to identify the body 22 hours after the crash, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday. Nemec said the scene of the accident was packed with law-enforcement and emergency vehicles on Sunday. “My worst fear is that they’re trying to get ducks in a row to absolve the attorney general of any wrongdoing,” he told the local CBS affiliate, KELO. Nemec reiterated his skepticism in a later interview with CBS. “A human doesn’t look like a deer,” he said. “The whole thing stinks to me.”

Ravnsborg, who was elected South Dakota’s attorney general in 2018, has an extremely flawed driving record, as the Argus Leader reports. Over the past six years, he has received six traffic tickets for speeding in the state, in addition to tickets for a seat-belt violation and for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system. He also has two older speeding tickets in Iowa. Ravnsborg’s office claimed on Monday that he had not been drinking at the fundraiser.

South Dakota’s Attorney General Fatally Struck a Pedestrian