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Ravnsborg Remains at Large; 9-1-1 Call Casts Doubt on AG’s “Large Animal” Claim

I expected more from Kristi Noem yesterday. After allowing all the bad press to simmer down over her Attorney General’s killing of a man on the way home from a Republican fundraiser, she had a chance to take the mic, blow some serious smoke, and put the Jason Ravnsborg manslaughter case to bed once and for all, allowing everyone to focus more on Kristi 2024. She could show her Administration’s Trumpist commitment to party solidarity, secure Jason Ravnsborg’s absolute loyalty for bailing him out of prison time, and give the finger to all those Democrats in Joe Boever’s family. She could essentially lay down a new marker for the SDGOP version of Trump-pal-itarianism: Yes, we can kill a man in the middle of the road and not lose any voters.

Instead, Noem fanfared another press conference that answered none of the important questions about Jason Ravnsborg’s legal and moral responsibility for the death of Joe Boever and suggested that our hapless Attorney General still hasn’t danced hard enough to secure his party’s bailout.

One of the most surprising things we learned yesterday is that the Ravnsborg manslaughter investigation is still far from over. Four weeks after the killing, investigators say they may need several more weeks to complete their crash analysis. There aren’t that many moving parts to this crash: one driver, one car, one pedestrian. Back in 2015, Attorney General Marty Jackley had to investigate a far more ghastly and complicated murder-suicide in Platte involving six people, a string of telecommunications, a giant burned-down house, and a brewing financial scandal, and he was able to tie a bow on that investigation in six weeks. DCI and other cops have been out marking the crap out of the road where Ravnsborg killed Boever; how much more evidence is there to gather? Are they just waiting for Ravnsborg to crack and confess? Or are they waiting for us all to get distracted by the Trump/Proud Boys insurrection?

The state did offer some evidence from the investigation. Laughably, it produced the toxicology results from the test Ravnsborg took 15 hours after the deadly crash showing there was no alcohol in Ravnsborg’s bloodstream. Given that the average male adult (and no one has ever accused Jason of being better than average) can metabolize one drink an hour, this toxicology report only establishes that Ravnsborg did not drink more than 16 beers up in Redfield before driving to Boever’s death.

Of course, we don’t have any proof that Ravnsborg was drinking the night he killed Joe Boever, either.

The most important piece of evidence released yesterday is the audio and transcript of Ravnsborg’s 9-1-1 call from the scene of the crash:

Transcript of 9-1-1- call placed by Jason Ravnsborg, 2020.09.12, transcribed by Dawn Hill, SD Dept. of Public Safety, posted to KNBN, 2020.10.13, p. 1.
Transcript of 9-1-1- call placed by Jason Ravnsborg, 2020.09.12, transcribed by Dawn Hill, SD Dept. of Public Safety, posted to KNBN, 2020.10.13, p. 1.
Transcript of 9-1-1- call placed by Jason Ravnsborg, 2020.09.12, transcribed by Dawn Hill, SD Dept. of Public Safety, posted to KNBN, 2020.10.13, p. 2.
Transcript of 9-1-1- call placed by Jason Ravnsborg, 2020.09.12, transcribed by Dawn Hill, SD Dept. of Public Safety, posted to KNBN, 2020.10.13, p. 2.

Ravnsborg made three important statements in that call (ellipses indicate pauses, not omitted text; dispatcher statements are in parentheses and italics):

1. This… well… Ally, I’m the Attorney General.

Jason doesn’t open this urgent call with his name. He opens with his official title, signaling to Ally the dispatcher, perhaps, that she’d better dispatch help quickly and not ask too many questions.

2. And I am… I don’t know… I hit something. (You hit something?) By Highmore. Highmore. And it was in the middle of the road.

Ravnsborg was not intoxicated. He had his 1.3 prosecutorial wits about him enough to make sure the first specific evidentiary statement he made was the location of his crash, which he claimed was the spot from which he could most likely mount a defense against any charges. The middle of the road is most certainly not where Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec and journalist Bart Pfankuch saw and photographed the first skid marks at the scene.

3. (Do you think you hit a deer or something?) I have no idea.

In his formal public statement issued two days after the crash, Ravnsborg wrote, “…my vehicle struck something that I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer). I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate.” In that written statement, Ravnsborg used the past tense, “believed,” indicating his belief was cotemporaneous with the impact. Yet in the moments following the impact, in his communication with dispatch, he said he had “no idea” what he hit. “Large animal” didn’t come out of his mouth. “Deer” came out of the dispatcher’s mouth, leading him to respond “it could be…” but not to express any belief.

Ravnsborg did not initially say he thought he hit a large animal or likely a deer. He said he had no idea what he hit. That line could be more damning than the argument we’re having over whether a driver can really mistake a man for a deer. Saying he had no idea what he hit suggests Ravnsborg’s eyes weren’t on the road at all… which suggests the most important evidence the state didn’t release yesterday was Ravnsborg’s phone records.

Even if Ravnsborg’s eyes weren’t on the road at the moment of impact, the evidence from the scene reported by Nick Nemec suggests Ravnsborg had opportunity to see what he hit immediately afterward. The skid patterns of tire and blood suggest the possibility that Boever’s body smashed into Ravnsborg’s bumper and windshield, then remained on the hood of the car for some moments before sliding down, dragging on the ground, and being thrown to the grassy edge of the road.

The skid marks provide more evidence that Jason had some idea that what he hit was more a who than a what. Ravnsborg worked transportation in the military, meaning he likely had some extra driver safety training. Even us casual drivers know that if you see a deer (or a skunk, or a turtle) in the middle of the road, you don’t romp on the brakes and execute any crazy maneuver. It’s just an animal, not worth putting yourself in the ditch or a flip or a worse wreck for. If you’ve already hit the deer, well, damage is done, so don’t make it worse with any sudden moves; just brake and ease off the road. Sure, surprise and adrenaline can make the best driver panic and overreact, but the hard skid Ravnsborg laid that night, along with the evidence on his windshield, suggest he was reacting to hitting someone, not some entirely unknown thing.

Ravnsborg made two assertions in his 9-1-1 call from the scene of his crime that don’t jive with the evidence and his subsequent statements. The state still has not released the key evidence of Ravnsborg’s phone records or his severely damaged red Taurus. About all we achieved yesterday was another chance for Kristi Noem to be on TV and look like she doesn’t know what she’s doing… or at least can’t make up her mind whether Jason Ravnsborg, who killed a man, is worth keeping on the job and in the party.

23 Comments

  1. cibvet 2020-10-14

    It takes a long time to make coverups airtight.

  2. Jenny 2020-10-14

    You’re right, cibet.
    The Northern Mississippi State Govt really likes their far right funny looking AG and so they have got to do everything possible to get him off since he’s tenured for 40 more years in the Club. I heard they’ve been having secret meetings with the prosecutors in the State Capitol basement.
    If naive South Dakotans only knew……………………..

  3. Richard Schriever 2020-10-14

    If his claim is that what he had hit was “in the middle of the road”, then by evidence on the vehicle – he was driving in the left lane. Of course, other evidence shows that he was NOT in fact in the left lane, but off toward the edge of the right side of the road. The evidence suggests, he WAS NOT LOOKING at, or at least not SEEING where he was when the impact occurred.

  4. Mike J 2020-10-14

    I like how later in the call he said ‘It sure hit me… smashed my windshield.’ as if Joe flung himself at the car. Not that he hit something.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-10-14

    Richard, indeed: the damage to the car was on the right side. That damage fits better with the skid evidence to indicate an impact closer to the edge of the road, not the middle.

    And Mike, yes, interesting that Ravnsborg’s language there, as in his press release, de-emphasizes his agency as the man driving the car, the man who killed another man.

  6. chris 2020-10-14

    combat driving tactics are hard to unlearn

  7. Darrell Solberg 2020-10-14

    Please, not another attempt at a cover up by the majority party! We have already endured two, EB-5 and Gear Up! South Dakotans deserve better than this. The Governor is trying to tie a lot of questionable pieces together to protect her, her party, and her A.G. When a person tells the truth you don’t have to remember you said. On the other hand when you bend the facts, it is hard to keep track of what has been said, thus it is easier to keep digging the hole deeper and creating more doubt that we will ever get the real facts from this administration!

  8. Dicta 2020-10-14

    If he was in the middle of the road and he hit the windshield, HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT YOU HIT!?!?! This is becoming an increasingly unbelievable story.

  9. Mike Livingston 2020-10-14

    Mike J, excellent point (It sure hit me indeed) reducing a human life to it, and to think that man or animal would intentional hurl themselves at a speeding car makes Kellyanne’s alternative facts look sensible.

  10. Buckobear 2020-10-14

    … and then there’s the “Bronze Star” reference.
    “Help, I’m a hero!” (not to mention the AG.
    Bet that Bronze Star is for Meritorious Service.

  11. jerry 2020-10-14

    That is exactly what that was for “Meritorious Service” When you get that “V” device, that means you’ve done something heroic, otherwise, it just means you’re a yes man that succeeded in cooling the beer.

  12. DaveFN 2020-10-14

    Were I speeding along oblivious to the highway and hit something, I too would brake like a banshee–especially if I quickly realized it was a human.

  13. jerry 2020-10-14

    Talking Points Memo (paywall), has picked up this story as well. Sounds like they think it’s kinda bull excrement as we all think. Only a crooked trumpian republican would think otherwise.

    Where the Attorney General is an elector for trump, it does all fit nicely that GNOem and her ALEC patrons want to linger this until after the election. It stinks like a CAFO.

  14. T 2020-10-14

    “I believe I’m by Highmore”
    That is an interesting statement and hit something ”by highmore”
    When you are an experienced traveler, you say things like I’m approx 5 miles west of such and such … just thought this was interesting verbiage

  15. Dale C 2020-10-14

    Got to delay past election, so AG elector can vote for Trump, then they can dump him!!

  16. jerry 2020-10-14

    Anyone seen the sheriff’s statements on this?

  17. Debbo 2020-10-14

    The phone records are critical. The Boever family needs a first rate hacker to get into Verizon, or whatever company. I wonder if the SDGOP will find some way to keep the phone records secret? Like Benda’s autopsy.

  18. jerry 2020-10-14

    How old does Benda’s daughter have to be before she is old enough to see who killed her father?

  19. leslie 2020-10-14

    “I can see Highmore.” Do we think he was in the right location when the Sheriff arrived, who likely knew it was the AG he was coming out to meet? If Ravnsborg thought he just hit a deer, why call 911? Drive back to town, call for his own tow? Was there a statute that requires official involvement that someone here pointed out?

    So sorry, Nemecs and Jenny and the rest of your family that you have to keep reading about this tragedy in such public and vivid detail. My heart hurts for you.

    Jason the Elector may be on SCOTUS and appeals amicus legal briefs likely supporting overreach by Trump and GOP with RAGA and Barr’s corrupted justice dept. Noem wants to stay popular w/the don. Absolute loyalty. She’s being cautious w/ the AG

    Oh, has everyone seen this unrelated documentary?https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbbrandon/2020/09/17/why-th…l-dilemma-on-netflix-is-such-an-important-film/#4cd5652f4e68

  20. John 2020-10-14

    Yes Leslie, SDCl 32-34-7 requires you to report to law enforcement. If you don’t the mechanics are not supposed to fix your car, but it happens.

  21. mike from iowa 2020-10-15

    I was thinking Jackley produced that idea of letting Benda’s estranged 16 year old daughter decide about the autopsy results, even though Benda had a wife at the time, out of his nether regions.

  22. Kurt Evans 2020-10-16

    Cory writes:

    Ravnsborg was not intoxicated. He had his 1.3 prosecutorial wits about him enough to make sure the first specific evidentiary statement he made was the location of his crash, which he claimed was the spot from which he could most likely mount a defense against any charges.

    If he didn’t know he struck a person, why would he have been planning to mount a defense?

    If he’d known he struck a person, and if he’d planned to say the person entered the driving lanes, why would he have denied seeing the person?

    The middle of the road is most certainly not where Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec and journalist Bart Pfankuch saw and photographed the first skid marks at the scene.

    If the collision had occurred on the shoulder where the skid marks began, why would Ravnsborg have hit the brakes without steering back into the driving lanes?

    Even if Ravnsborg’s eyes weren’t on the road at the moment of impact, the evidence from the scene reported by Nick Nemec suggests Ravnsborg had opportunity to see what he hit immediately afterward.

    How, Cory? By the moonlight reflected from Ravnsborg’s eyes? The collision occurred in the late evening, in the dark.

    Sure, surprise and adrenaline can make the best driver panic and overreact, but the hard skid Ravnsborg laid that night, along with the evidence on his windshield, suggest he was reacting to hitting someone, not some entirely unknown thing.

    They suggest he didn’t see what he hit.

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