'His face was in your windshield': Police skeptical South Dakota AG didn't know he fatally struck a pedestrian

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Danielle Ferguson, Joe Sneve and Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
·6 min read
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – North Dakota investigators were skeptical that South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg didn't know he fatally struck a pedestrian on the night of Sept. 12, 2020.

According to video footage from two separate interviews between investigators and Ravnsborg, made public Tuesday by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, authorities found the reading glasses of Joe Boever inside the Ford Taurus that killed him.

"His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that," a detective with the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation said during an interrogation Sept. 30.

Law enforcement from North Dakota have assisted in the investigation in order to buffer the inquiry from conflict-of-interest perceptions.

The release of those videos comes after articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg were filed in the South Dakota House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.

The articles have been filed only with the Legislative Research Council and were scheduled to be formally introduced on the House floor Wednesday.

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Authorities announced last week that Ravnsborg, 44, would be charged with three misdemeanors in connection to the death of Boever, the 55-year-old who was walking along the shoulder of Highway 14 west of Highmore when Ravnsborg's vehicle left its lane of travel and struck him.

In this Feb. 24, 2014 photo, Jason Ravnsborg, a Yankton attorney and Army Reserves major, talks about his U.S. Senate campaign in Sioux Falls, S.D. Ravnsborg is one of five Republicans seeking the seat currently held by Sen. Tim Johnson. On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, Secretary of State Jason Gant approved the nominating petitions of the five Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent.(AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)
In this Feb. 24, 2014 photo, Jason Ravnsborg, a Yankton attorney and Army Reserves major, talks about his U.S. Senate campaign in Sioux Falls, S.D. Ravnsborg is one of five Republicans seeking the seat currently held by Sen. Tim Johnson. On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, Secretary of State Jason Gant approved the nominating petitions of the five Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent.(AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem called on Ravnsborg to resign Tuesday morning. In that same statement, she said the state would be releasing additional material from the investigation.

"This is not political, and it is not personal," Rep. Will Mortensen said when he filed the articles. "I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore."

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Interview reveals details of collision

In interview videos totaling roughly three hours of footage, Ravnsborg gives his account of the fatal incident.

Ravnsborg, who insisted he wasn’t looking at his phone at the time, said he didn't see "anything" until his vehicle made impact with Boever.

"Quite frankly, 'wham' (claps hands for emphasis) the incident happened," Ravnsborg said in the interview.

Asked if he saw anything after the impact, Ravnsborg said he didn’t see anything as he was trying to steer the car to the side of the highway, adding he "did not know there was a human until the next day.”

After the collision, Ravnsborg said he "immediately" jumped out of the car and called 911 "within seconds."

However, an investigator shared phone extraction data with the attorney general, noting that he had logged into a Yahoo email account at 10:20 local, four minutes before calling 911 to report the accident. He said Ravnsborg was on other news sites one to two minutes before calling 911. The investigator notes there was time between impact with Boever and when he called 911.

“So when we look at that, our concern is everything we are seeing here is it’s appearing you were on your phone reading political stuff at the time,” the investigator said. “Part of this, Jason, is we have a job, right? People make mistakes. We’re thinking you made one.”

Ravnsborg insists he didn’t use the phone right before the incident, saying he remembers turning off the radio and checking the speedometer right before the collision.

Ravnsborg said once he got out of the car he began looking for what he had hit and saw a white pickup truck, which Boever's family later said Boever may have been walking back to fix.

"I did see the white pickup in the ditch at the time, but I didn’t put two and two together yet," Ravnsborg said in the interview.

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek reported to the scene, looked at the car and the wreckage and asked Ravnsborg to get his registration and insurance and meet him back at his car, where he wrote out a red ticket to present to his insurance company for a deer hit.

Ravnsborg described leaning in from the driver seat, trying to avoid glass in the passenger seat as he reached for his registration. He denies seeing a pair of glasses.

“They’re Joe’s glasses ... So that means his face came through your windshield,” an investigator said.

Volek offered him a ride or the use of a personal car. Ravnsborg recalls that he said, “Whatever works for you, sheriff.” He ended up getting a car.

"I continued home," Ravnsborg said.

An investigator asked the attorney general if he’d seen a flashlight carried by Boever, either before the accident or when he’d walked back toward town while dialing 911. Ravnsborg denied seeing it, even though it was “pitch black outside.” The investigator told Ravnsborg the light was still on when they arrived at the scene the next day, and that a witness had also seen Boever walking with it.

Ravnsborg said he called his chief of staff, Tim Bormann, that night, telling him he thought he had hit a deer.

The detectives also questioned how Ravnsborg could have searched the area with his cellphone flashlight, at one point walking right by Boever's body, and not seen his body. They pointed out that part of Boever's white skin was exposed and the flashlight was still on. The detectives said it would have been hard to miss both Boever's body, lying in the grass near the highway pavement, and a flashlight shining on a dark night.

Ravnsborg insisted he saw neither and pointed out that the sheriff and tow truck driver who arrived later also had not spotted Boever's body or the flashlight. Earlier in the interview, the attorney general told detectives that he had no idea he had killed a man until the next day when he stopped by the accident scene with Bormann.

He said, “I found the body and I just came to Tim, and I said: ‘Tim, Tim, Tim, you’ve got to come here. I found a body.’ ”

Ravnsborg told investigators that he and Bormann then went and got the sherrif, who later released them from the scene, saying he would call DCI to investigate.

A crash diagram from the South Dakota Highway Patrol shows where Joe Boever was struck by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's vehicle.
A crash diagram from the South Dakota Highway Patrol shows where Joe Boever was struck by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's vehicle.

Toxicology, 911 call previously released

The state also released the audio and transcript of the 911 call, the toxicology report and state's crash report in October.

Previously: Jason Ravnsborg crash update: State releases 911 call, toxicology reports

In the 2 minute and 22 second 911 call made after the crash, Ravnsborg told the dispatcher he "hit something" that was "in the middle of the road."

The dispatcher, after asking if Ravnsborg was off the road or if he had any injuries, asked, "Do you think it was a deer or something?"

"I have no idea. I mean, it could be," he replied. "It was right in the roadway."

Ravnsborg released a statement that weekend saying he thought he hit a deer.

Three toxicology report documents say that Ravnsborg had no drugs or alcohol in his system. The samples were taken at about 1 p.m. Sunday, more than 12 hours after the crash was reported. An autopsy on Boever determined the cause of death was traumatic injuries from a pedestrian and motor vehicle crash.

All of the materials can be found on the South Dakota Department of Public Safety's website homepage.

Contributing: Associated Press; Jay Cannon, USA TODAY

Follow reporters Danielle Ferguson, Joe Sneve and Jonathan Ellis on Twitter: @DaniFergs, @Argus_Joe, @argusjellis

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg grilled by police after fatal crash