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PIERRE — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg knew he'd struck a human being despite telling authorities he didn't, according to testimony Wednesday from North Dakota detectives during the Legislature's sixth day of impeachment hearings.
"You walk by a flashlight that's on and there's a body that's laying within two feet of the roadway ... I believe he would have had to see him," said Arnie Rummel, one of two North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) agents who handled the investigation into the death of Joe Boever, the 55-year-old Highmore man whose body was discovered the morning after Ravnsborg told a 911 dispatcher he'd struck "something" while driving.
The BCI was brought into the case at the request of the Highway Patrol due to the state's Division of Criminal Investigation falling under the office of the Attorney General.
Rummel and fellow BCI agent Joe Arenz spent hours taking questions from members of the House's impeachment committee and giving their accounts of what took place during a series of interrogations with Ravnsborg in the weeks following the Sept. 12, 2020, crash.
And both said statements made by Ravnsborg during those interrogations, as well as forensic evidence gathered from the car he was driving at the time of the crash and the scene, combined to lead them to determine Ravnsborg was lying.
"He did not report what he'd actually seen," Rummel said, adding that there were inconsistencies in statements Ravnsborg provided to detectives during interviews that took place on Sept. 14, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020. "Some of the things we asked him directly about were not factual."
Specifically, Ravnsborg denied that he'd been using his cellphone while traveling from Redfield to Pierre the night of the crash, and that he'd not become aware that what he'd struck was a human until the following day when he returned to the crash scene.
However, Arenz said cellphone forensics show he'd been looking at news articles during the drive. The detectives said they also determined he was lying about when he discovered the body based on an inadvertent admission made during the second interrogation.
Arenz said that as Ravnsborg was describing what he did immediately following the crash, he told investigators that he'd seen the body the same night as the crash but not until after it had occurred.
"I don't know exactly where I turned around and saw him," Ravnsborg can be heard telling Arenz and Rummel in video footage of the Sept. 30, 2020 interrogation.
He then corrected himself.
"I didn't see him," he said. "I did not see him."
An illuminated flashlight found at the crash scene determined to have been carried by Boever and the location of the body in relation to where Ravnsborg had walked that night also led them to believe he'd seen the body before leaving the scene that night, they said.
They also said that the late Hyde County Sheriff, Mike Volek, had noted in a written report submitted to North Dakota detectives that he'd seen a light illuminating from the ditch near the crash scene but did not investigate.
A spokesperson for Ravnsborg did not respond to a request for comment following the three-hour impeachment investigation hearing.
Noem calls line of questioning Tuesday 'inappropriate'
Wednesday testimony comes a day after the committee spent hours grilling Public Safety Secretary Craig Price and several state troopers who worked the initial crash investigation about their involvement in the case. Some committee members also pried into the level of involvement that Gov. Kristi Noem, who's publicly called for Ravnsborg's resignation and impeachment, had in the case.
Noem called Tuesday's line of questioning from the committee, which has not made public any investigation materials its working with, "inappropriate" and "tragic" and said it only served to question the integrity of the investigation, according to the Associated Press.
“It grieves me that because of a political agenda, some legislators on the committee are attacking the integrity of our law enforcement officers,” she said.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, told reporters late Wednesday that the committee is merely attempting to establish the facts and the governor has no role in the process of determining whether Ravnsborg should face an impeachment trial in the Senate.
"We've always said we're going to be fair and we're going to be thorough," he said.
Gosch said it's unclear what the next steps are for the committee, but determinations about future meetings or whether other documents or witnesses should be issued subpoenas to testify would be made collectively in discussions among committee members. He did not provide any timeline for the release of documents or an updated schedule.
"We've got a good start but we've got more work to do," he said.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Detectives say SD AG Jason Ravnsborg lied, knew he had hit a person