Gov. Kristi Noem released the video interviews involving Jason Ravnsborg late Tuesday, after calling for the state’s top law enforcement officer to resign. In South Dakota, it is extremely rare for such interviews to be released to the public, NewsNation affiliate KELO reported.
One of the interviews took place two days after the crash, while the other was weeks later, after investigators had determined more details about what happened.
The videos show investigators asking Ravnsborg whether he had been reading email or checking news sites immediately before he struck 55-year-old Joseph Boever.
Ravnsborg appeared unsure of how he had swerved onto a highway shoulder and killed Boever, but detectives told him Boever’s glasses had been found inside his Ford Taurus and that bone scrapings were found on the rumble strip of the highway shoulder. Investigators said they found one part of Boever’s severed glasses on the front, passenger-side floorboard and the other part in the back seat.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason, think about that,” an investigator at one point told him.
The Republican attorney general is facing three misdemeanor charges in the Sept. 12 crash, as well as impeachment proceedings in the Legislature.
But a spokesperson representing Ravnsborg told local media on Tuesday that the attorney general “does not intend to resign,” KELO reported.
“At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office. Instead, he has handled some of the largest settlements and legislative issues the state has ever been through,” the spokesperson’s statement read.
Ravnsborg has insisted he wasn’t looking at his phone at the moment his car struck and killed Boever. In the video interviews, Ravnsborg appeared distressed as he heard how the impact with Boever’s body had left an imprint on the car hood and smashed the windshield.
“I never saw him,” he told the investigators. “I never saw him.”
The detectives pressed Ravnsborg on whether he was distracted when he hit Boever. They confronted him with phone records, telling him they showed he had logged into his Yahoo email account and accessed a news website minutes before he called 911 to report the crash.
“So when we look at that, our concern is everything we are seeing here is it’s appearing you were on your phone reading political stuff at the time,” the detective told Ravnsborg, adding, “People make mistakes.”
They pointed out that he had previously been called out for using Twitter while driving in the Black Hills, but Ravnsborg insisted that he had set the phone down before he hit Boever.
He said the last thing he remembered before the crash was turning off the radio and looking down at the speedometer. He had been accelerating after passing through the town of Highmore, but said he had not yet set his cruise control. Prosecutors said they determined Ravnsborg was driving 67 mph (108 kph) — just 2 mph over the speed limit — when he struck Boever.
The attorney general has been charged with using his phone while driving, but prosecutors said his phone records show he had locked the device about a minute before the crash.
The detectives also questioned how Ravnsborg could have searched the area with his cellphone flashlight, at one point walking right by Boever’s body, and not seen his body. They pointed out that part of Boever’s white skin was exposed and a flashlight he had been carrying was still on. The detectives said it would have been hard to miss both Boever’s body, lying in the grass near the highway pavement, and a flashlight shining on a dark night.
Ravnsborg insisted he saw neither and pointed out that the sheriff and tow truck driver who arrived later also had not spotted Boever’s body or the flashlight. Earlier in the interview, the attorney general told detectives that he had no idea he had killed a man until the next day when he stopped by the accident scene with his chief of staff, Tim Bormann.
He said, “I found the body and I just came to Tim, and I said: ‘Tim, Tim, Tim, you’ve got to come here. I found a body.’”
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KELO contributed to this report.