- 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)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated
The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors
More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.
The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.
While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11.
An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.
In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.
Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.
Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People
Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.
But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.
While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.
According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.
Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.
Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.
For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.