OGLALA, S.D. - An 18-year veteran police officer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Public Safety Department was killed in a vehicle accident near Oglala, under suspicious circumstances say investigators.
The crash occurred around 2:30 am on July 1 and killed both Kelvar One Feather and a prisoner he was transporting, Ivan Gary of Rapid City. A second prisoner, Chauncy Lone Elk Jr., of Oglala, was treated and released from Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Investigators say 48 year-old One Feather may have been involved in a struggle initiated by one or both prisoners while en route to the jail in Pine Ridge. Lone Elk and Gary were arrested a half hour earlier for alleged liquor violations and were being taken to the Pine Ridge Jail for incarceration.
Public Safety Director Everett Little White Man said investigators questioned Lone Elk twice. Lone Elk claims to have been asleep at the time of the accident, with no memory of the events leading up to it. Investigators point out that Lone Elk's story raises further suspicions because the vehicle had been en route for only two or three minutes.
"Officer One Feather was one of our finest men. He devoted his life to serving our Lakota people in law enforcement and we intend to honor his service with a full-dress police burial," said Little White Man, "He will be sorely missed, not only by his family members, but by his fellow officers as well."
Little White Man confirmed that the crashed Ford Expedition had no barrier between the officer and the prisoners, for which the director said he is taking heat from community members. He said the $30,000 vehicle must be written off as a total loss because it was uninsured.
Reports show One Feather was thrown from his police vehicle near the Jonas Belt Housing Project in Oglala. Dispatcher's logs show One Feather called ahead to notify the jail he was transporting the prisoners from the Loneman sub-station at 2:22 a.m. At 2:27 the dispatcher received three calls notifying the police there had been an accident.
BIA Criminal Investigator Mitch Pourier and OST Public Safety investigator Fontanelle Afraid Of Bear are centering their investigation on the possibility one or both prisoners initiated an attempt to escape. "Right now we really don't have anything specific, and that may be hard to get, but there are serious unanswered questions about this incident.
The investigation is ongoing, and will be pursued vigorously, Pourier said. "We lost one of our own, and it's going to take the department some time to get over it."