PIERRE, S.D (CN) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was distracted when he struck and killed a pedestrian in September, according to state Secretary of Safety Craig Price.
Ravnsborg told Hyde County police following the collision he believed he hit a deer. When he returned to the collision site the following morning, he discovered the body of 55-year-old Joseph Boever.
A finding of distracted driving will be the ultimate determining factor if Ravnsborg faces charges, according to Price.
Ravnsborg was traveling westbound on the highway near Highmore, South Dakota, on his way home from a GOP Lincoln Day Dinners event at Rooster’s Bar & Grill on Sept. 12 when he struck Boever. Ravnsborg claimed he had nothing to drink that evening and submitted to a toxicology test, taken 15 hours after the collision.
According to the crash report, Boever was walking on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 14 carrying a type of light. Despite the crash report finding Boever was on the shoulder, Ravnsborg called 911 following the crash and told a dispatcher that he hit something “in the middle of the road.” The dispatcher then asked if he hit a deer, which Ravnsborg said was possible.
In a news conference Monday, Price and Governor Kristi Noem said the Highway Patrol's investigation is largely complete though toxicology reports and the autopsy are pending.
Ravnsborg’s chief of staff Tim Bormann confirmed the attorney general had been on his way back from the event and had previously stated that Ravnsborg made it a practice not to drink at the Lincoln Day events.
Police have written Ravnsborg six traffic tickets for speeding over the last six years. The U.S. Highway 14 speed limit in the area where the collision occurred is 65 miles per hour, though the speed Ravnsborg was traveling is unknown.
A law passed by the South Dakota Legislature this year imposes fines and classifies texting and driving a primary offense. However, the source of Ravnsborg’s distraction is not currently known.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.