The top law enforcement official in South Dakota told officials that he believed he hit a deer on a rural stretch of road on Saturday night. It wasn’t until the following day that it became clear Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg had fatally struck a man, and state authorities are investigating.
Ravnsborg said he discovered the body of 55-year-old Joseph Boever on Sunday when he returned to the scene of the crash. He released a two-page letter about the crash to the Argus Leader newspaper of Sioux Falls on late Monday.
The attorney general said in the statement that he was driving home at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday from the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner, a Republican fundraising event, in the small town of Redfield.
“I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate,” Ravnsborg said, according to the paper. He added that he thought it was “a large animal (likely a deer).”
Ravnsborg said he did not consume alcohol before, during or after the event.
He called the Hyde County sheriff to the scene and, according to authorities, told them he had been in a car-deer crash. They searched for what Ravnsborg hit but did not find anything at the time, the attorney general said in the statement.
“I looked around the vehicle in the dark and saw nothing to indicate what I had hit,” he said. “All I could see were pieces of my vehicle laying on and around the roadway.”
According to the letter posted to the Argus Leader, Ravnsborg used the sheriff’s personal vehicle to drive home on Saturday. On Sunday morning, as he was driving to return the vehicle with his chief of staff, Ravnsborg noticed that “the debris field from my accident was still on the road.” He said the pair got out of the car and searched for what they thought was a deer, according to the letter.
“As I walked along the shoulder of the road I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway,” the letter said. “My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”
He said he is “deeply saddened by the tragic nature of the events” and offered his condolences to the Boever family.
NPR reached out to Ravnsborg’s office to confirm the authenticity of the statement but did not immediately receive a response.
In a brief press conference Sunday, Gov. Kristi Noem confirmed Ravnsborg was involved in the fatal crash that took place at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. She added that South Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. Few other details were released at the time.
Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec told South Dakota Public Broadcasting he suspects Ravnsborg must have been distracted if he was unclear that he hit a human instead of a deer.
“We want answers. Why [has it] taken so long for authorities to get their ducks in a row,” Nemec told South Dakota Public Broadcasting. “It sounds like that’s what they’re trying to do, is get their ducks in a row and it stinks.”