The family of Jason Loafer and Jenny Robertson gather at the place where Mr. Loafer was struck by a vehicle in Rapid City, South Dakota, on November 15, 2017. He later died of his injuries. Friends and family gathered at this spot and held a prayer vigil on December 2, 2017, to bring awareness to the need for pedestrian safety and honor their loved one. Photo by Richie Richards

Native Sun News Today: Family raises awareness after Lakota man dies in Rapid City

A prayer vigil for Jason Loafer

By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY – The family of a man killed in a pedestrian accident in November gathered to pray and bring awareness to pedestrian safety in North Rapid City.

Jason Loafer was struck by a vehicle traveling southbound on Haines Ave on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at approximately 5:30 p.m. Loafer later died of his injuries.

According to family members, including wife Gayla Loafer, and sisters Amber Zephier-Bettelyoun, 31, and Alicia Zephier-Janis, 38, Loafer had hitchhiked out of Martin, South Dakota, in the early morning hours of November 15 in hopes of arriving in Rapid City to pursue employment and housing opportunities.

Arriving in the late afternoon, Loafer was walking through the neighborhood of North Rapid City on his way to his sister, Amber’s home or possibly to her place of employment. She lives and works in the area just east of Haines Ave near the cross street Lindbergh Ave.

It was while crossing the road on Haines Ave that Loafer was struck. Like many of the population of Rapid City, the tribal member was coming to Rapid City for work. After a long day of hitchhiking into town, Loafer had nearly made it to his destination.

Loafer’s death has brought up many concerns of pedestrian traffic in Rapid City. In the week of the prayer vigil “Light the Way for Jason Loafer”, two more pedestrians were struck by vehicles on Lacrosse Street and East Saint Patrick Street in Rapid City. The man on East St. Pat died of his injuries.

On Saturday, December 2, family and friends of Jason Loafer gathered at the He Sapa New Life Wesleyan Church on the corner of Anamosa Street and Haines Ave for a short walk to the area of Patton Street and Haines Ave where Mr. Loafer was found after being struck by the vehicle.

Nearly 60 persons gathered for a prayer led by Pastor Larry Salway of He Sapa New Life before they lit their candles and began to walk to the scene of the accident. Escorted by the Rapid City Police Department, the friends and family walked in silence as they remembered the life of their loved one.

In a symbolic crossing of the road near the scene of the accident, RCPD blocked off traffic in both north and south bound lanes with emergency lights on to light the way. The emergency lights also alerted drivers to the need for improved pedestrian safety as the mourners crossed the road with candles hand.

Along with the family and friends of Loafer was Rapid City Council member, Jason Salamun (Ward 3). During the prayer circle, Alderman Salamun told the crowd gathered, “Your lives matter. Your life: Your life. Your life and your life,” said Salamun as he pointed to individuals in the prayer circle. Alderman Salamun later said he was very moved by the prayer circle and took note of the conversations he had with members of the family at the vigil.

“I believe Jason doesn’t have to be remembered for what happened to him and how he left us. He could be remembered in a good positive way,” said Amber. “We’re all coming together and we’re praying for him. We’re hoping to see change for the community in his name.” The grieving sister is remorseful that possible changes had to come at the cost of losing her brother to a pedestrian accident.

Gayla Loafer is in mourning over the loss of her husband’s life. “It’s overwhelming. It’s all coming together and still real; like with this vigil. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this got so much attention’. Jason has always been a real compassionate and simple man. He had a big heart and was a hard worker,” said the wife.



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A prayer vigil for Jason Loafer
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