- South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car on Saturday night but actually killed a 55-year-old man whose body was not found until the next day.
- The family is now demanding answers about the circumstances of the crash as well as why it took so long to discover and identify the victim’s body.
- While some understand how such an incident could happen in a rural area, others find it unbelievable that he could mistake a human body for an animal. Many are also concerned about the fairness of the investigation and worry Ravnsborg will face little to no consequences since this may not be considered a hit and run.
- Street safety advocates hope that at the very least, this highlights the unique dangers rural roads pose for walkers.
The top law enforcement official in South Dakota is now at the center of a shocking case that is making national headlines.
According to a Monday press release from Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, he was driving home from a GOP fundraiser on Saturday, which he left at around 9:15 p.m. However, during the drive, he hit a large figure in the dark and stopped to check. He said he called 911 to report that he thought he hit a deer and eventually the Hyde County Sheriff came to the scene.
Ravnsborg noted that it was dark out and he could only see that pieces of his vehicle were laying on the road, but he didn’t see what he had hit. He said he used his phone flashlight to look in the nearby ditch but still couldn’t see.
When Sheriff Mike Volek arrived, he also surveyed the scene and filled out the necessary paperwork. Because Ravnsborg’s car was too damaged to drive safely and tow services were well over an hour away, the sheriff took him to his home and offered him his personal vehicle to borrow or the rest of his drive.
The following day, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff went back to the sheriff’s home to return the car. Along the day, they noticed the debris from the previous night near the scene, so they stopped to see if the animal he thought he struck was around.
Instead, they found a man’s body in the grass just off the roadway and said it was apparent that he was deceased. Ravnsborg said he drove to the sheriff’s home to report the discovery. Sheriff Volek allegedly told Ravnsborg that he would handle the investigation and asked him to go home.
The person who was found dead has been identified as 55-year-old Joseph Boever. According to his cousins Nick and Victor Nemec, he had left his Ford pickup truck on the side of the highway Saturday morning after hitting a bale of hay.
Victor took him home and promised to give him a lift to retrieve the truck the next morning, but for some reason, Boever decided to return to the truck on foot that when Ravnsborg struck him that night.
The next morning, Victor called his cousin and received no answer so he drove to his home and on the way, he noticed that the truck was surrounded by police cruisers, crime tape, and tarp.
When he didn’t find Boever at home, he called the sheriff’s office to ask if his cousin was involved in a car crash. Deputies reportedly asked Victor to wait for an officer to show up to speak to him. He waited until a deputy finally phoned at 7:30 p.m., telling him to go to a local funeral home to identify his cousin. Boever’s body was identified after 8 p.m. that Sunday night.
Now the family is demanding answers about the circumstances of the case and the amount of time it took to discover and identify the body.
“I believe the state is going to try to cover this up as much as they can,” Victor told the Rapid City Journal. “This state is known for covering up wrongdoing of elected officials all the time.”
“A deer doesn’t look like a human.”
“I don’t know what the truth is, but I have my doubts whether an official 911 call was made after the accident,” he later told NBC News.
The victim’s wife, Jennifer Boever, was also confused by how everything unfolded, telling the outlet KELO, “Why did my husband lie in a ditch for 22 hours?”
“I mean, we have no answers yet. And right now I’m just raw and numb, I just lost the man of my life.”
A lot of people agree with them, finding some circumstances of this incident odd. Others have also pointed to the attorney general’s driving record. According to local reports, he received six traffic tickets for speeding in South Dakota between 2014 and when he was elected to statewide office in 2018. Four of them were for speeding, one was for a seat belt violation, and another was for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system. He also paid for two speeding tickets in Iowa in 1996 and 2003.
However, there has been no mention of the speed he was driving at when he struck Boever, and in his statement, he also stressed that the hadn’t been drinking that night.
Investigation and Concerns
Ravnsborg offered his condolences to the Boever family and said he was “saddened by the tragic nature of these events.” However, he did say he would not answer public questions until the investigation is over.
He said the investigation is being done by the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He also said he was fully cooperating, has agreed to a search of his cell phones, provided a blood draw, and gave names of people at the GOP event who could confirm he was not drinking alcohol.
Based on a lot of the social media responses to this story, hitting an animal on rural roads is not unheard of, so some find his story plausible. In fact, in many cases, drivers are usually taught to not stop to help a wounded animal if they suspect it could cause their vehicle to get hit by another driver on the road. Others also said it’s not exactly bizarre that the local sheriff of a rural community would offer broad courteous resources like loaning his personal car, especially to a person like a state attorney general.
Still, many in the community are concerned that because Ravnsborg holds a position of power, he will face little to no reproductions. Some worry that that could be because of potential corruption in this case, but others say the crime may not technically qualify as a hit-and-run. Even if he were somehow charged with one, the penalties for that crime in South Dakota can carry fines as low as $2,000.
So while some are hoping for consequences, street safety advocates hope that at the very least, this case serves as a cautionary tale and highlights the unique dangers of rural road designs. For instance, the highway where this death happened is a rural 2 lane road with no pedestrian infrastructure or streetlights.
The victim’s family told local reporters that a small stretch of the road runs through their small community, and carries speed limits of 45 to 65 miles per hour throughout. According to a 2016 Propublica report, even at the lower end of that range, a pedestrian struck by a car has less than a 50% chance of survival.
Roads like this are not exactly uncommon in rural communities, which is a huge danger for walkers. According to the Federal Highway Administration, about 25% of collisions between drivers and non-drivers occur along rural highways, despite the fact that only 19% of Americans live in rural areas. Because cars on rural highways travel so fast, crashes are far more likely to be fatal.
See what others are saying: (USA Streets Blog) (NPR) (Rapid City Journal)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.
See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)
Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”
Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.
New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer
Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.
“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”
Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.
Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”
“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.
Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.
Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.
“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”
Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.
Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.
Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.
It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.
During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”
At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.”