The governor of South Dakota has asked outside investigators to look into how the state’s Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a man with his car before reporting that he’d hit a deer.
Gov Kristi Noem announced the outside probe on Tuesday after relatives of the victim, 55-year-old Jason Boever, called the fatal crash ‘fishy’ and expressed concern that authorities could bungle the investigation to protect Ravnsborg.
The attorney general was driving from a Republican fundraiser in Redfield to his home some 110 miles away in Pierre on Saturday night when he hit something in the dark that he said he presumed to be an animal.
In a statement on Monday night Ravnsborg said he immediately called 911 and searched the area by flashlight along with Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who responded to the scene, but they didn’t find anything.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Boever’s body was discovered in a ditch when Ravnsborg returned to the crash site with his chief of staff.
Boever’s cousins, Nick and Victor Nemec, have now said they are worried that investigators might not make a complete effort to find out the truth about what happened to him.
The Nemecs criticized authorities for being tight-lipped about their progress and for taking so long to identify Boever, even though he had been reported missing by Victor 10 hours before his body was found.
‘It just seems fishy,’ Nick told South Dakota News Watch. ‘It just seems like they’re looking for an excuse to make it less than it was.’
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (left) mowed down 55-year-old Jason Boever (right) with his car near Highmore on Saturday night and called 911 to report that he’d hit a deer. On Monday, Boever’s family criticized authorities for being tight-lipped about their investigation and expressed fear that they may try to protect Ravnsborg
Tire tracks are seen on the side of US Highway 14 near the area where Ranvsborg struck Boever as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser on Saturday night. Ravnsborg said he and the Hyde County sheriff both searched the area with flashlights immediately after the crash but neither of them spotted Boever in the ditch until the following day
Victor had contacted the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday morning and said that Boever was missing and may have been involved in the Highmore collision.
He notified officers that Boever’s truck was in a ditch near the accident scene after he crashed it into a hay bale on Saturday morning.
Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec (pictured) said: ‘It seems like [investigators are] looking for an excuse to make it less than it was’
Despite his report, Victor said authorities still haven’t approached him for an interview.
‘I believe they’re more interested in getting their story straight before they actually ask me questions,’ Victor told SDNW.
‘I told them that I was probably one of the last people to see my cousin alive. I could make any kind of statement that they needed. And they really didn’t acknowledge that.’
‘It took them 10 hours from the time my brother essentially solved the unidentified body for them at 10 o’clock in the morning saying: “We’re missing our cousin, Joe, and we can’t find him. And that’s his pickup in the ditch,”‘ Nick, a former Democratic state legislator, told the outlet.
The Nemecs aired their concerns shortly before Ravnsborg released his own statement, revealing that he was the one who discovered Boever’s body.
He said that he and the Hyde County sheriff had both searched the area around the vehicle with flashlights immediately after the accident but neither of them spotted Boever lying in a ditch.
Ravnsborg, who was alone in his 2011 Ford Taurus, insisted that he had not been drinking before he got behind the wheel and said he is ‘cooperating fully with the investigation’ the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which would normally be involved, is part of the attorney general’s office. It is standard practice to request an outside agency to conduct an investigation when there may be a conflict of interest.
Gov Noem on Tuesday said that a crash reconstruction expert from Wyoming would also be assisting with the case.
‘We want to have a completed investigation that has integrity, that has been fair,’ Noem said when asked when details and documents on the investigation would be released.
She has not addressed whether Ravnsborg should be asked to take a leave of absence during the investigation.
Boever’s family have expressed suspicion that authorities could be working to cover up details of the incident to protect Ravnsborg. Boever is pictured second from right with relatives
Boever’s damaged pickup truck is seen in the middle of a field after he had crashed into a hay bale hours before he was struck and killed by Ravnsborg
Ravnsborg said he had not spoken out prior to Monday night because the investigation is ongoing, but that he decided to make a statement to dispel the ‘many rumors and stories being told and reported which do not represent a full and factual account of what happened’.
He said he started the drive home from the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Rooster’s Bar & Grill in Redfield at about 9.15pm on Saturday and hit ‘something I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer)’ soon after he passed Boever’s hometown of Highmore.
‘I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate,’ he wrote, adding that he pulled out the flashlight on his cell phone and all he could see were pieces of his car strewn across the roadway.
After he called 911, Sheriff Volek arrived at the scene to assess the damage to Ravnsborg’s car and search for what he had hit.
‘At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,’ Ravnsborg wrote.
Because Ravnsborg’s car was too damaged to drive and a tow truck would take over an hour to arrive, Volek offered to let the attorney general take his personal car back to Pierre.
The following morning Ravnsborg and his chief of staff made the trip back to Highmore to return Volek’s vehicle.
The pair stopped at the crash site on their way and discovered a man’s body in the grass near the roadway.
‘My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased,’ Ravnsborg wrote.
‘I immediately drove to Sheriff Volek’s home to report the discovery and he accompanied me back to the scene.
‘Once there, the sheriff instructed me that he would handle the investigation, and asked me to return to Pierre.’
The South Dakota Highway Patrol was notified about the fatality Sunday morning and an investigation was opened.
On Sunday night, Gov Noem and Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price announced that Ravnsborg was involved in the crash at a news conference.
Authorities have not confirmed the details included in Ravnsborg’s statement.
Ravnsborg said at ‘not time’ did he or Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek ‘suspect that I had been in an accident with a person’ in a statement he released Monday night
Traffic is seen on US Highway 14 as authorities launched an investigation into the fatal crash
A medical examiner in Minnesota performed an autopsy on Boever but the results have not yet been released.
The Highway Patrol has remained tight-lipped – refusing to say if speed or alcohol were a factor in the crash, when Ravnsborg reported the crash or if charges are pending against him.
Ravnsborg has agreed to a search of both of his cell phones, provided a blood draw and provided witnesses to law enforcement who can confirm he was not drinking at the event before the crash.
His Chief of Staff Tim Bormann said the attorney general is known to have an occasional drink, but has made it a practice not to drink at the Lincoln Day events like the one on Saturday night.
State Sen Brock Greenfield, who also attended the dinner, said of Ravnsborg: ‘I didn’t see him with anything but a Coke.’
Ravnsborg, who was elected to the post of attorney general in 2018, has received six traffic tickets for speeding in South Dakota over the last six years.
He also received tickets for a seat belt violation and for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system.
Read Jason Ravnsborg’s full statement below: