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2017-03-23 / Front Page

US Attorney To Host Conference In Pine Ridge

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
LCT EDITOR

PINE RIDGE – An unprecedented level of violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has led to many residents calling for an increased federal law enforcement presence. Federal officials may have heard that plea as they announced this week that United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler will host that a half-day conference addressing gun violence in Indian Country in Pine Ridge.

The event that is set to take place Thursday April 6, 2017, at the SuAnne Big Crow Center will be held in conjunction with National Crime Victim’s Rights Week and is hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

Pine Ridge saw murder rates on the reservation double from 2015- 2016 with 5 of the 17 murder having involved the use of a firearm. In 2015, there was not a single murder on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation involving firearms.

The rise in violent crime has been attributed to the arrival of meth across the Oglala Lakota Nation. Although rates of violence on the reservation have been always been higher than the national average, the use of firearms during criminal activity is a new phenomenon. The spike in meth use on the reservation resulted in former Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Steele to declare a State of Emergency over the drug as well as the passage of new tribal laws that sought to banish any tribal member of manufacturing hard drugs.

The site where the conference is to be held was the scene a violent daytime shooting that resulted in the death of Vincent Brewer III in October of 2016. There have been several arrests made in relation to the shooting but there has yet to be a single person charged with his actual murder. Earlier in 2016 Todd Little Bull was also the victim of gun violence after he was shot and murdered near Sharps Corner. There have been no arrests made in connection to his death.

Attendees at the conference will hear from Nikki Munholand, a Tribal Administrator who survived a mass shooting which took place during a tribal council meeting in which four tribal members, including the Tribal Chairman, were killed. The incident took place on Cedarville Rancheria in February of 2014. All four victims were shot with a 9mm handgun. A second pistol was also found on the scene but police believe that this weapon had jammed preventing others from being shot.

The shooter in this instance was Cherie Lash Rhoades. Rhoades was a tribal citizen who was upset over eviction hearings and the fact that she was removed as the tribal chairperson for alleged embezzlement earlier that year. Her victims included her brother, niece and nephew.

Also in attendance will be Sheriff Michael Poindexter was one of the responding officers who worked closely with the victims. They will share their story of survival and the effect of the shooting on the community.

Representatives from several local victim service providers will have a display/information booth. Following the conference, a ceremony will be held honoring four individuals who have provided outstanding services to victims of crime in Indian country, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The events will be held at the SuAnne Big Crow Center in Pine Ridge, located at 1 Positive Place. The conference will run from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, followed by the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week presentations. The public is welcome and a free lunch will be served.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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