Rebecca M. Sotherland, an Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer, is seen tazing an unresponsive Native man.

Female Tribal Officer Caught Tazing Native Man 17 Times Is Indicted

Vincent Schilling

Rebecca M. Sotherland, an Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer, has been indicted for the use of “excessive force,” following a video that went viral last week showing her tazing an unresponsive man approximately 17 times.

According to a release issued by United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson from the District of South Dakota, Sotherland, 32, was indicted on August 26, 2014, by a federal grand jury for violating the constitutional rights of a man in her custody (on August 15) by repeatedly using her Taser on him without justification and for Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe made no formal comment to ICTMN other than to confirm that a meeting between OST Tribal officials, the BIA and the OST Department Public of Safety was held and reports from the OST DPS have been turned over to the BIA Internal Affairs office for the start of an investigation. The FBI is conducting a separate investigation.

OST President Bryan Brewer did comment publicly on Facebook stating, “Good Morning people who live in the Wounded Knee district and the Pine Ridge reservation. Office[r] Sutherland has been placed on suspension until further investigation. This investigation will happen very soon. The video camera she carries has yet to be reviewed. I will notify the people when further action is taken. Wopila”

The video, which shows Sotherland repeatedly tazing an unresponsive man with onlookers swearing, counting the amount of audible tazings to 17 – was shot on a cell phone and was shared thousands of times on Facebook within hours. The video, entitled “Sadistic Cop Tazes Man 17 times” and other similar titles has since hit news agencies all over the world and the video has been uploaded all over the internet.

On Facebook, several commenters claim they witnessed the incident as well as knew of the victim and/or Officer Sotherland.

Sis Cliff on Facebook says her daughter recorded the video and remarked about Officer Sotherland, “I hope this girl is no longer a police officer. All she had to do was let him up, he was asleep when she started to taze him.”

Cliff further responded to a woman who thanked her for recording the incident, “Don’t thank me, thank my baby. She stopped her from doing more if she didn't stop and see this (THIS MAN PROBABLY WOULD OF GOT KILLED BY THIS SO CALLED OFFICER) the man was intoxicated & could not help his self he was handcuffed as well.”

Another commenter on Facebook Otto Cuny responded to the video in a curse-laden post, “[Deleted]…she threw my dad in mud and was going to charge him with resisting arrest if he didn't get up. Hope something is actually done about this...this [deleted] will hurt elders so for damn sure she'll hurt a kid.”

Another woman who says she was a witness, Laura Clifford commented, “The kids even said, ‘that's the 17th time she tazed him’ so sad they were watching & had to count each time. I saw it too. It was sickening.”

According to a May 29, 2014 story on MSNBC entitled, “Law and disorder on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,” Officer Sotherland was featured and described as an “oddity” on the OST police force because she is a “blonde-haired, blue-eyed, former hair salon-owner, former city coroner who describes herself as a “white mutt.”

According to the MSNBC article, Sotherland grew up about an hour northeast of the reservation, in Hot Springs and joined the tribal police department last year. She also patrolled alone, often on foot as it was “easier to get the drop on unsuspecting drinkers and other lawbreakers.”

Penalties in accordance to the actions of Sotherland if convicted include a maximum 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 assessment to the federal crime victims’ fund. Restitution to the victim may also be ordered.

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Juliet's picture
Submitted by Juliet on
With all the police over-reaction in the news these days, the last thing we need is ANOTHER incident of abuse. I hope she's disciplined appropriately.

Grayhorse's picture
Submitted by Grayhorse on
She should never have been on the police force. I hope she gets the maximum 10 years and the $250,000 fine! That is so sad.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
This doesn't surprise me one bit. With absolute power comes absolute responsibility and few people can handle it without doing something wrong. It only shows that Natives are as human as anyone else - assholiness knows no cultural or racial boundries. ____________________________________________________________ That said, I STILL hope she suffers the full extent of the law. Sadists DO NOT belong in law enforcement.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
This is what occurs in every=day real lives of people. But yet when a "white" police officer says the slightest word, slightest gesture, or movement to a "non-white", then all logical, conclusive opinions go out the window and every-body jumps on the band-wagon of divisive race, bigotry, and discrminatory politics brought on by the TV-media spec tales of Cable TV. While the Travoyns and Michaels are 'celebrated', Chicago has 10 more shootings and Reservation and/Border Towns murders = killings - abuses continue. I do hope some remember what get reported and what so many others don't!

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
This police officer deserves time in prison and should go back to being a hair salon owner. How on earth did she qualify to be a police officer on this police department and how on earth did she qualify as being a county coroner before that? Does she have a medical degree. If she does, she's the most stupid medical person I've seen in a long time. She never gave him a chance to recover from one tazing to the next. I'm glad someone got this on their phone and posted it. I'm also glad she let people that were there help this man up. At least in the end she showed some humanity. Police around here go out of their way to take a person like that in, get them sobered up, have medical treatment, get to shower and get to sleep indoors for a few days and enjoy some hot meals. What the hell was she thinking? She should just resign because she deserves to be fired and charged with assault and battery on a defenseless man needing obvious help.

BruceEdward's picture
Submitted by BruceEdward on
"Former Oglala Sioux Tribe Police Officer Indicted for Using Excessive Force U.S. Department of Justice August 26, 2014 Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888 WASHINGTON—A former Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer has been indicted by a federal grand jury for violating the constitutional rights of a man in her custody by repeatedly using her Taser on him without justification, announced U.S. Attorney Brenden V. Johnson. Rebecca M. Sotherland, aka Becky Sotherland and Becki Sotherland, age 32, was indicted on Aug. 26, 2014, for Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. The maximum penalty upon conviction is 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 assessment to the federal crime victims fund. Restitution may also be ordered. The indictment alleges that on Aug. 15, 2014, Sotherland, while acting under color of law, repeatedly deployed a Taser on the victim causing bodily injury to the victim. The alleged offense took place in Manderson, South Dakota. The charges are merely accusations and Sotherland is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Collins and Kevin Koliner are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Jared Fishman, with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice This content has been reproduced from its original source. " "The charges are merely accusations and Sotherland is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty." I am so glad the writer and the commenters are willing to suspend judgement before all the facts are in. It would be terrible to "rush to judgement" and convict and try someone before their day in court. Thank you Vincent Shilling, for writing a fair and balanced article that attempts to inform his readers of the facts of the case, and trying to prejudice the readers with a selective choosing of facts, consisting mostly of social media commentators who were not present at the scene. Because to do so would be just irresponsible, right? Oh and I am so glad Vincent chose not to engage in any kind of race baiting, because that's the sort of thing those trashy tabloids engage in, just to stir up controversy and increase readership. The fact that the officer was blond and blue eyed has no real relevance to this story, and Vincent was responsible enough to know that and refused to mention every bodies race in order to sway or influence people, simply because of their race. Oh wait, Mr. Shilling did all those things...never mind.