- 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)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.