Journal staff April 19, 2017
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have scheduled a news conference on Monday in Rapid City to announce indictments of 15 defendants on charges of illegal trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds.
The news conference is set for 2 p.m. at the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Outdoor Campus West at 4130 Adventure Trail.
The charges stem from an undercover operation over the course of two years, according to a news release.
Announcing the indictments will be Randy Seiler, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota; Eric Kelderman, Assistant U.S. Attorney of Rapid City; Meghan Dilges, Assistant U.S. Attorney of Pierre; and Steve Oberholtzer, Special Agent, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of Denver.
Mike Anderson Journal staff Apr 7, 2017
Officials held a summit Thursday to combat violence on the Pine Ridge reservation at the SuAnne Big Crow Center east of Pine Ridge.
PINE RIDGE | Tribal, state and federal authorities are taking the first steps toward forging a partnership to combat gun violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
To that end, Randolph Seiler, U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota, said at a news conference Thursday that he is opening an office in Pine Ridge.
“Let’s beat this!” Seiler shouted in his closing remarks at the Su Anne Big Crow Center, slamming his open palm on the lectern. “If you know the top five drug dealers on Pine Ridge, tell me! We’ll go after them.”
Starting next week, Seiler’s attorneys will staff the office at the Criminal Justice Center in Pine Ridge and be available every Wednesday to answer questions and take reports about crimes.
“We’re calling it walk-in Wednesdays,” Seiler told an audience of about 70 people that included members of Oglala Sioux tribal government and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Representatives from each of those groups voiced a commitment to cooperate with Seiler and the administration of Oglala Sioux Tribal President Troy Scott Weston to reduce gun violence on the reservation.
“We can make the Pine Ridge reservation a safer place to live and raise a family,” Seiler said. “I pledge as long as I am U.S. attorney, I will stand with you in this effort.”
The news conference was purposefully held during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The joint initiative between his office and Seiler’s, Weston said, has been one of his top priorities since he stepped into the role of tribal president in November.
“We are too territorial in everything we do,” Weston said. “We have tribal law, we have federal law, we have state law. And we’re bound by it. It doesn’t let us do what we need to do. So my intent when I got into this office was to break down those barriers.”
There were 17 homicides on the reservation in 2016, compared to nine in 2015.
“In the overwhelming number of cases,” Seiler said of the killings over the last two years, “both the perpetrator and the victim were (Native American). In the overwhelming number of cases, both the victim and the defendant knew each other. The majority of homicides were not drug related. I can tell you in every instance that they’re being investigated. With one or two exceptions, they’ve all been solved, the responsible parties are being prosecuted, and some are having court appearances in Rapid City as we speak.”
Seiler also noted that there hasn’t been a single homicide on the reservation so far this year, a fact that Weston isn’t willing to trumpet as a sign of victory.
“I’m going to leave that alone,” he said. “I don’t want to take credit for something only to have it come back and bite me.”
The three-hour news conference highlighted the stories of several survivors and victims of violent crime, including Cheryl “Renee” Bourque, a victim specialist with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who narrowly survived a shooting during a routine residential check-in.
“We get so caught up on the justice, which is important,” she said. “But what we forget about is the healing part.”
Recovering from violent trauma requires help from a strong community, Bourque said.
Mike Poindexter is the sheriff of Modoc County in northeast California, a poor and sparsely populated area of the state that covers 4,200 square miles and five Native American reservations. Poindexter was once shot at with an AK-47 in the course of his duties as sheriff, something that would have been unheard of when he took the job in 1987.
During a 20-year period from 1987 to 2007, Poindexter said his county only saw a single homicide.
“Since 2007, we’ve had six or seven, including the first officer killed in the line of duty,” he said. “It’s an epidemic. It’s not just happening here.”
Poindexter recounted for the audience what he saw in the aftermath of a mass shooting in the winter of 2014.
“A young woman came running into the city building covered in blood stating that there’d been a shooting at the tribal office,” Poindexter recalled.
Four people were shot to death. Another woman was stabbed repeatedly. Poindexter found her bleeding in the parking lot outside the tribal office. Inside, he could hear the sound of a baby crying somewhere amid the carnage.
“It was just the most horrific crime we’ve had in the history of our county,” Poindexter said.
Bridging the cultural gap between tribal police and predominantly white law enforcement entities can be difficult at times, Poindexter said, but he urged those at the news conference to communicate and do their best to help each other, whether they live on the reservation or off it.
Frank Kelsey, an agent with the ATF, shared that sentiment and joined in Seiler’s pledge to offer whatever help his office can to fight the violence on Pine Ridge.
“Violence lives in the dark,” Kelsey said. “If you don’t admit that you have a problem, if you don’t tackle that problem head-on, you’re letting violence live in the dark. The best way to combat a crime is to shine a light on it.”
“Our response to any violent crime has to be unified,” he added. “It needs to be as one, and it needs to be stronger than the crime.”
Both Kelsey and Seiler urged those in attendance to speak up about violence in their communities and to call them directly if they have something to report.
Seiler’s office number in Rapid City is 342-7822, and anonymous tips about crimes can be made toll-free to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services hotline at 888-668-0661. Calls to the ATF can be directed to 782-8200.
“We need to retrain our thoughts,” Weston said, adding that he hopes the partnership with Seiler’s office will be the beginning of a more aggressive approach to dealing with violence on the reservation.