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Native Sun News Today: Rise in violent crime seen on Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Photo: James Pendleton / U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Attorney to open Pine Ridge office
Agencies increase efforts in wake of reports of more gun violence
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today Editor

PINE RIDGE –– More gun violence erupted over the weekend on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation just days after tribal, state and federal officers met to talk about combining efforts to curb gun violence on the reservation.

Sources state that on Saturday in the community of Allen a man was shot and killed by police officers after he reportedly shot at a tribal police officer’s home. Sources identified the man as Jeff Curry Jr.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, there were 17 homicides on the reservation last year, compared to nine in 2015. While most of the homicides did not involve drugs or gun violence, in the majority of cases, both the perpetrator and the victim knew each other and were Native American.

Five homicide victims which did involve gun violence include; Te’Ca Clifford, Todd Little Bull, Annie Colhoff, Vinnie Brewer III, and most recently Shawn Stevens.

Randolph Seiler, U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota, scheduled a news conference for Thursday April 6 at Su Anne Big Crow Center in Pine Ridge. The conference titled “Protecting Our Tribal Communities: Responding to Gun Violence and Its Victims” was collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. The event was held in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“This is an opportunity for the United States Attorney's Office, federal law enforcement, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, to partner with the Oglala Sioux Tribe to address issues of mutual concern in terms of violent crime on the reservation going forward,” Seiler told the audience of more than 70 and pledged that this partnership would make the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a safer place to live.

Seiler also announced during the conference that the Office of the U.S. Attorney will open a satellite office on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Criminal Justice Center. He said his staff will be available every Wednesday to answer questions and take reports about crimes.

Newly elected Oglala Sioux Tribal President Scott Weston, also addressed the issue of jurisdiction and said one of his intensions when he got into office was to break down some of those barriers, “We have tribal law, we have federal law, we have state law. And we’re bound by it. It doesn’t let us do what we need to do.”

Keynote speaker for the event was Michael Poindexter, Sheriff of Modoc County in California, where a mass shooting took place in February of 2014 during a tribal council meeting. Four tribal members, including the Tribal Chairman, died as a result of the tragic event. Sheriff Poindexter was one of the responding officers who worked closely with the victims, and shared his story of survival and the effect of the shooting on the community.

Also on the agenda was Cheryl “Renee” Bourque with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bourque shared her experience and addressed the impact of losing two of her close friends and co-workers to gun violence. Both victims were Native American and worked for the Seminole, Okla. sheriff’s office. In addition, Frank Kelsey with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, gave a presentation on gun violence, the nature of the problem and how to avert the consequences.

During the noon hour four individuals were recognized for exceptional service to victims in the community; Darrel Robinson, Criminal Investigator, Bureau of Indian Affairs, John Long, Acting Superintendent, Bureau of Indian Affairs (Formerly Pine Ridge BIA Special Agent in Charge), Misty Hunter, Certified Nurse Specialist, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Four Directions Clinic and Mary Beth Nielson, Certified Nurse Midwife, Four Directions Clinic.

Seiler’s office number in Rapid City is 342-7822, and anonymous tips about crimes can be made toll-free to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services hotline at 888-668-0661. Calls to the ATF can be directed to 782-8200.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: U.S. Attorney to open Pine Ridge office

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