South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) was distracted when he struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in September, Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price said on Monday.
Ravnsborg, who is in his first term after being elected in 2018, hit 55-year-old Joseph Boever the night of Sept. 12 with his Ford Taurus when Boever was walking along the side of the road. Ravnsborg initially called 911 to say he thought he'd hit a deer; he discovered Boever's body the next day.
Boever was using some form of light and relatives believe he was walking to his truck, which he had crashed earlier, according to The Associated Press.
Price did not say what caused Ravnsborg to become distracted, the AP reported, or what kind of light Boever was using. An autopsy determined Boever’s cause of death as extensive traumatic injuries.
A toxicology report from 15 hours after the crash showed no alcohol in Ravnsborg's system, though the AP notes that experts say this would be enough time for alcohol to leave the body.
Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin, said he was not surprised the attorney general had been distracted, saying the site of the crash spoke for itself when he visited it multiple times.
“I think the attorney general should be charged at the very least with distracted driving. If he was distracted, then you’re getting into the territory of involuntary manslaughter. I think that would be an appropriate charge,” said Nemec.
The charges Ravnsborg may face depend on what was distracting him. A new state law passed in July made texting and driving a primary offense and carries a fine of $122.50, according to the AP. Officials said the investigation is nearly complete but they are waiting on several reports to arrive, including the coroner's report.
The AP reported these sorts of cases would normally be handled by the South Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but because it reports to the attorney general’s office, other agencies have taken over the case to avoid a conflict of interests.