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Catch Up On The Head-Spinning Details Of The South Dakota AG’s Car Crash That You Might’ve Missed

South Dakota Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg (Office of the South Dakota Attorney General/TPM Illustration)
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October 14, 2020 3:21 p.m.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) and South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Craig Price gave an update Tuesday afternoon regarding the investigation into state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s fatal car crash with a pedestrian last month. But you’d be forgiven for missing it or even letting the whole scandal itself slip under your radar given the brouhaha over President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, his continued efforts to sow misinformation about the virus, his rowdy debate performance, and so on and so forth.

Here’s what we know so far about Ravnsborg’s collision last month:

The Accident: September 12, 10:30 PM CT

Ravnsborg is driving on U.S. Highway 14 when he strikes Joe Boever, a 55-year-old pedestrian, according to the DPS. The attorney general was driving from a Republican fundraiser in Redfield, South Dakota, and claims later that he had not been drinking alcohol “before, during, or after” the event.

Ravnsborg, who is uninjured, calls 911 and tells the dispatcher that he “hit something” in the middle of the road that “smashed” his windshield, according to the DPS’ recording of the call. When asked if he thought it might’ve been a deer, the attorney general says “I have no idea. It could be. I mean, it was right in the roadway.”

The dispatcher sends Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek to the scene.

What happens next is largely based on Ravnsborg’s account.

In a statement released several days after the collision, Ravnsborg claims he had “looked around the vehicle in the dark and saw nothing to indicate what I had hit.” He used his cell phone as a flashlight to check the ditch “but couldn’t see anything.”

Volek arrives at the crash site to survey the damage and fill out a report. Neither of them finds a body, according to Ravnsborg, and “at no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person.”

Ravnsborg and Volek drive to the sheriff’s home together, then the attorney general borrows Volek’s car to drive home that night, Ravnsborg reports in his statement.

Body Gets Discovered: September 13, 8 AM CT

According to Ravnsborg, he and his chief of staff drive over to Volek’s home to return the car the following morning. On the way, the attorney general allegedly sees debris from his car on the road and decides to search the ditch for the animal he thought he had hit. That’s when Ravnsborg allegedly finds Boever’s body “just off the roadway.”

The attorney general drives to Volek’s home, informs him of the discovery, and they both return to the scene. The sheriff says he’ll handle the investigation, according to Ravnsborg. South Dakota’s Highway Patrol begins to investigate the crash.

Investigation Underway: September 13, 1:00 PM CT

After Ravnsborg reports the body, investigators run blood toxicology tests, which show neither drugs nor alcohol in the attorney general’s system. The tests were taken more than 12 hours after the incident occurred.

SD Guv. Announces Probe: September 13, Evening

Noem holds a press briefing announcing that Ravnsborg had been involved in a car crash where there had been a “fatality.” The governor declines to provide details. Ravnsborg states he is “fully cooperating with the investigation” in a similarly vague statement.

Ravnsborg Gives His Version Of Events: September 14, Evening

Ravnsborg releases a statement claiming to provide a “full and factual account of what happened,” which included his claim about not discovering Boever’s body until the morning after the collision.

Investigation Update: October 13, 1 PM CT

Noem and DPS Secretary Craig Price hold a briefing to provide an update on the Highway Patrol’s investigation, which is being assisted by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Price reports that Boever’s autopsy showed the man had died of “extensive injuries” internally and externally caused by a pedestrian-motor vehicle collision. The DPS secretary also states that investigators have hired national crash reconstruction experts. The DPS releases Ravnsborg’s toxicology test results and audio of the 911 call.

Ravnsborg has not indicated plans to step down.

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