US Attorney Johnson: Some Pine Ridge deaths may go unsolved - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

US Attorney Johnson: Some Pine Ridge deaths may go unsolved

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 They are unsolved mysteries which loved ones hope can be solved.
 Five dozen deaths....all on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
 South Dakota's US Attorney says he is committed to solving as many of these mysteries as is possible. He also says some of them may go unsolved.

 Eight months ago, tribal leaders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation presented South Dakota U-S Attorney Brendan Johnson with a list of 60 names.
 All 60 had died under mysterious circumstances.
 The tribe wanted Johnson to open an investigation and determine if these 60 deaths were natural, if they were accidents or if they were murders. "I'll tell you Brian, when I started this job, one of the things I heard that was most troubling to me was folks would say 'you know, I feel like living on a reservation that I get a second class form of public safety. That I am a second class citizen. That my public safety doesn't matter as much.....and so we made a big focus of ours to prosecute crime on Indian country and try to make those communities safer."

 Johnson tells me he wants his office to overcome the perception that the feds don't care about crime or safety on tribal lands.
 Concerning these 60 mysterious deaths on Pine Ridge, Johnson tells me he has established a team of seasoned attorneys and investigators...specifically to work on this. "We are committed to going through these cases piece by piece....and trying to get more information out to the families."

 Information that would bring the guessing to an end.
 But solving some of these cases, Johnson admits, will be terribly difficult if not impossible...as some of them stretch back to the 1960's and 1970's. And the passage of time is not kind to the investigative process. "Some of the evidence is gone. often the witnesses and in some cases the suspects are not living and no longer with us."

 And those facts bother Johnson...which is why, he says, his office is focusing on the past and on the future...by allocating more staff members to focus more time on what is happening on South Dakota's reservations. "In Pine Ridge we have increased prosecutions by 40%....in Rosebud over the last three years we have increased prosecutions by 78%."

 And Johnson says those prosecutions primarily involve two specific types of crimes: drug possession....and violent crime.

 The US Attorney's Office says it will likely have new information to release on these Pine Ridge deaths sometime in the spring.

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