Photo courtesy Christina Rose
Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker.

Suspects Who Hit Native American Kids With Racial Slurs, Beer Identified, Police Say

Simon Moya-Smith

Rapid City Police have identified the suspects who hurled racial slurs and beer at a group of Native American children at a hockey game in South Dakota on Saturday.

Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday the individuals are suspected of spraying beer on a group of 57 students – ages 9 to 13 – from a VIP suite at Rushmore Civic Center Plaza during a Rapid City Rush hockey game.

The students, who are from the American Horse School in Allen, were subjected to racial slurs and told to “go back to the reservation,” according to school chaperone Justin Poor Bear who wrote about the incident on his Facebook wall.

Jegeris said one individual in particular is suspected of inciting the incident. None of the names of the suspects have been released.

“We have identified the person that I would classify as the – who caused the greatest degree of [problems] related to being racist and criminal behavior, and we have identified possible other names that may have been involved,” he said.

The American Horse School board has filed an official police report with Rapid City Police. They have also filed a complaint with the Pennington County State's Attorney and is working to file the incident as a hate crime with federal authorities, Fox News affiliate KEVN reported.

On Wednesday, Rapid City officials met with citizens of the Oglala Sioux Nation at a two-and-a-half hour closed-door meeting. Angie Sam, a parent of one of the students and who was at the meeting, told KEVN that her daughter “is not safe in Rapid City.”

"They were targets of a hate crime because of their skin color, because they were from the rez and they were told to go back to the rez,” she said. “Why do we have to explain that they're hated just because of their skin color? We as parents, we struggle with that, what do we tell them? You know, it's hard.”

Mato Standing High, an attorney representing several of the parents, said at a press conference Wednesday they expect nothing less than an arrest of those who harassed the students.

"The families are expecting justice. In the families’ view, there's nothing short of an arrest that needs to be made,” Standing High said as reported by Andrea J. Cook of the Rapid City Journal.

Beer distributor Eagle Sales rented out the VIP suite where the alleged suspects staged their harassment. President of the company Tom Helland told the Rapid City Journal one of his employees was in the suite at the time of the incident, but that the employee was not aware of the harassment.

Helland apologized for the incident and said he is working with Rushmore Civic Center to get the kids back to a game for a better experience.

Poor Bear wrote that Saturday was the first time some students had ever been to a hockey game.

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker told reporters the incident is “gut wrenching” and said “apologizing simply isn’t enough.”

“We need to have a full investigation of what took place,” he said.

Rapid City police are looking into assault charges. Hate crime as well as child abuse statutes are also being considered by police.

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Flower's picture
Submitted by Flower on
Glad to see it is being elevated to the Federal level. The bigoted persons who impose racist values toward our people need to be held accountable. My kids have gone to bed hungry twice during their lifetime in two separte periods of family travel just because we were native and weren't served at restaurants during late night stops . It's not right.

Aqak's picture
Submitted by Aqak on
Of course Mr. Helland was not aware of the harassment, turn your head away & pretend that nothing is happening since its happening to a group of people who you believe don't belong in our own country.

Robert Rufa
Submitted by Robert Rufa on
Yes this is a hate crime. I seriously doubt white children would have been treated this way.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
As much as the emotions are involved here, this is nothing but a case of a-hole-ism fueled by alcohol. Why do you think alcohol isn't served at public 'native' outings as Powwows. I seen and as well heard of alchol-fueled tirades and fights at supposed-very sensitive or SACRED ceremonies. Alcohol isn't allowed and at these native outings and is frowned upon YET there are still a-holes who insist on being a-holes. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> As much as I want to make this 'my children' - it isn't/wasn't as much as WHAT IF the a-holes were natives who spilled beer and hurled insults at group of Boy Scouts - it wasn't either. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Assault charges, public nuisance, intoxication, picture posted on the newspaper, local TV, and public community service to a local/regional half-way house are in order! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The Rapid City EVENTS Center and Eagle Alcohol Distribution share responsiblity and SHOULD MAKE A MONTARY DONATION to the AMerican Horse School, SD! CASH COUNTs, apologies in 2015 should not and do not matter a whole lot anymore. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I wouldn't accept tickets or freebies to COME BACK nor be given free access to the Sky-boxes >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The Rapid City official and Lakota ppls. should put this BEHIND and move on. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Otherwise, those 'native'-bought racial agitators and instigators will jump and make this unfortunate incident a part of their rallies, protests, and articles.

Juliet's picture
Submitted by Juliet on
VIP box = well-off douchebags. Their delicate little sensibilities were offended by these children daring to participate in society, so they felt they had to attack. Because how dare they have to breathe the same air as non-whites? Sheesh.