July 31, 2015

Lakota Woman Dies In Police Custody After Health Complaints Ignored

LPLP Staff

A 24-year-old Lakota woman was found dead in her South Dakota jail cell after repeatedly complaining about excruciating body pain only to have her complaints ignored, according to witnesses in the Brown County prison facility.

According to Indian Country Today, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, 24, of Clairmount, S.D. was arrested for a bond violation and was being held in the facility when she began to experience pain. Witnesses say jail guards told Circle Bear to “knock it off” and “quit faking it.”

The case highlights two aspects of the criminal justice system in relation to Native Americans:

  1. Native Americans continue to have negative outcomes when interfacing with law enforcement.
  2. Those negative interactions, which often end in fatalities, receive far less media coverage than similar instances with other minority groups.

As the Lakota People’s Law Project asserted in its report “Native Lives Matter” Native Americans are the minority group most likely to be killed by law enforcement.

Native youth represents less than 1 percent of the youth population, but accounts for more than 70 percent of the youth federal prison population.

Nevertheless, Native issues continue to be generally ignored by the larger U.S. population and the media.

The death of Circle Bear is not an isolated incident.

Earlier this month, Paul Castaway, a Lakota man living in Denver was killed by police after officers allege that he came dangerously close to them wielding a knife. Witnesses dispute the police account.

The American public has grown increasingly aware that police accounts are oftentimes manufactured to protect officers in instances of shootings and cannot be trusted on face value. Castaway’s mother said she has seen the surveillance video and her son did not endanger police.

In January, police shot Lakota man Allen Locke inside his home in Rapid City, S.D. Police allege Locke charged them with a knife. Back in January, Locke’s death sparked a series of protests led by Lakota People’s Law Project Attorney Chase Iron Eyes in downtown Rapid City.

The death toll is mounting and so far not a single official has been held accountable.

How many more have to die before America takes notice?

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