HIGHMORE, S.D. — South Dakota’s top law enforcement officer is under investigation following a Saturday night vehicle collision in which Jason Ravnsborg told authorities he believed he hit a deer, but a man’s body was found near the site of the crash.
According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, the body of the pedestrian struck and killed was not discovered until Sunday morning, and family members identified the deceased as Joe Boever, 55, of Highmore, the Rapid City Journal reported.
In a statement, Ravnsborg, 44, said that he was “shocked and filled with sorrow” and was “fully cooperating with the investigation.” He also offered his “deepest sympathy and condolences to the family” of the victim, The New York Times reported.
Brothers Nick and Victor Nemec told the Journal that their cousin, Boever, was walking to retrieve his vehicle he had crashed earlier in the day when the collision occurred.
“A deer doesn’t look like a human,” Victor Nemec said.
Gov. Kristi Noem said during a Sunday news conference that the crash occurred around 10:30 p.m. on U.S. Highway 14 near Highmore but provided no further details. Her office has taken over supervision of the case because the attorney general oversees the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.
According to a Monday morning DPS news release, Ravnsborg was driving a 2011 Ford Taurus westbound, but it was not immediately clear if the vehicle was a state-issued car or if he stopped to investigate damage, the Journal reported.
“Most people when they hit a deer they stop, and they call law enforcement,” DPS spokesman Tony Mangan said. “The majority of people” get out of their car if they suspect their car was damaged, he added.
The attorney general’s spokesman, Tim Bormann, told the Times on Monday that Ravnsborg was not injured and was the only person in the car at the time of the crash. He also noted that Ravnsborg was returning from a South Dakota Republican Party event when the crash occurred and that Ravnsborg called 911 “at approximately 10:24 p.m. and informed authorities that he had struck something.”
When asked if Ravnsborg had been drinking that night, Bormann told the Times that the attorney general does not usually drink alcohol at Lincoln Day Dinners or other political events.
“This is a policy he has had and adhered to since he was a candidate, and he continued that trend at the event Saturday evening,” Bormann said.