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2017-08-10 / Front Page

Oglala Sioux Tribal Vehicle Involved In Arrest

BY NATALIE HAND
LCT CORRESPONDENT
*WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM BRANDON ECOFFEY, LCT EDITOR

PINE RIDGE --In late July, Oglala Sioux Tribal Department of Public Safety seized heroin and other opiates in a routine traffic stop on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, according to the official report from the arresting officer. Although most common traffic stops are not usually newsworthy, what made this stop unique is that the vehicle itself is owned by the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

According to the police report, the driver of the vehicle, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, was charged with possession of controlled substances (Heroin/Opiates), drug paraphernalia, driving without a license, and 3 outstanding traffic warrants.

Noting a visibly intoxicated passenger in the back seat, the officer requested and was granted consent by the driver to search the tribal vehicle. The officer found one-half gallon of whiskey and multiple cans of malt liquor in the back seat, according to the police report. The officer was further granted verbal consent to search a purse belonging to the driver. The search resulted in the discovery of “large amount of syringes”. The driver informed the officer that she was a diabetic, but immediately denied ownership of anything in the purse, according to the police report.

The report goes on to describe the discovery of a tin can with a white substance on the can and a layer of burnt film on the other side of the can. At that time, the officer secured the driver and conducted a pat-down search, which resulted in the discovery of 10 pills in her pocket, which were identified as a narcotic known as Hydrocodone Bitartrate/Acetaminophen.

The operator of the vehicle did not have a driver’s license or registration for the vehicle, but provided an insurance card which confirmed that the vehicle belonged to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. According to the police report, the driver informed the arresting officer that the vehicle was issued to the OST Treasurer Mason Big Crow.

While waiting for the vehicle to be impounded, Big Crow arrived on the scene. The arresting officer advised Big Crow that the vehicle was being impounded. Big Crow informed the officer that the vehicle belonged to him and that he “let (the driver) use the OST work vehicle and advised she was supposed to come to the casino,” according to the police report.

Big Crow was allowed to make payment to Gup’s Towing on the scene to avoid impoundment of the tribal vehicle, the police report noted.

LCT reached out to OST Treasurer Big Crow for comment.

“I can’t say anything. It’s in tribal court I guess,” stated Big Crow in a telephone interview Tuesday.

When informed that LCT had obtained a copy of the police report, he stated that that the acquisition of the document violates the driver’s “confidentiality”. He then informed LCT that he intended to find out how the document was attained.

“We will find out where you got the report,” added Big Crow.

According to OST Code, Chapter 21, the Freedom of Information Act allows for adult defendants’ names to be made public. OST Personnel Manual states that its “…against tribal law to have a tribal vehicle at an employee’s home or away from a secure area or designated parking area by a tribal program…”

After multiple requests for comment, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has yet to release a formal statement on this incident.

Big Crow was not charged with any crimes relating to the incident. Furthermore, Big Crow was not in the vehicle when the initial stop occurred. Nor is there any evidence in the report connecting Big Crow to the contraband found in the car.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety did not return phone calls to OST at press time. The driver was arraigned and released on a $5,000 cash bond.

*LCT has opted to redact the names of the common citizens involved in the incident as the actual court proceedings and determination of guilt has not occurred. Big Crow’s involvement has been deemed to be information important to the public due to Big Crow’s position as tribal treasurer. LCT will always protect the identity of our sources and we stand by the facts and documentation behind this story. – Brandon Ecoffey, LCT Editor.

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