After weeks of investigations, Rapid City Police announced that they have charged one man with disorderly conduct relating to an incident last month when 57 Native American children were subjected to racial slurs and beer being poured on them at a hockey game. A 41-year-old South Dakota resident, Trace O’Connell, faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for his role in the incident. Witnesses say a number of men in a suite above the children hurled racial insults at the group during the third quarter of a Rapid City Rush game and then deliberately spilled beer on them.
Since the incident, protests have sprouted up around Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and throughout the Rapid City area. It was also reported a week later that beer was deliberately spilled on a group of young Native American women at the same civic center. A Department of Justice mediator was sent to Rapid City to look into the matter and discuss race issues with community leaders. Many within the community called for child abuse and/or hate crime charges to be levied on the responsible parties.
In the end, it looks like O’Connell will be the only one charged — witnesses claim more than one man took part — and jail time for this level of offense seems unlikely. While he might be publicly shamed, the feeling within the local Native American community is that he will not face much, if any, punishment. At least not in relation to the emotional harm he subjected a group of grade-school children.
Regarding the charge, Prosecuting State Attorney Mark Vargo released a statement on Wednesday.
The State’s Attorney’s Office, after a thorough review of the evidence gathered by the RCPD in an exhaustive investigation, determined that the elements for felony child abuse or malicious intimidation could not be established.
We are bound by the evidence as it emerges in the investigation, not as it is reported in the press. Even matters that offend me and rightfully offend us as a community must endure the same rigorous evaluation, applying the facts against the law as handed down by the legislature to determine the appropriate level of criminal charges.
The Rapid City Police Department also added that they conducted 170 interviews and 550 hours of manpower in relation to the investigation. That didn’t seem to matter to many local residents, who feel that O’Connell, and others who may have been involved, are getting off essentially scot-free. Police Chief Karl Jegeris and other officials addressed members of the community regarding the matter and attempted to take questions. However, once upset residents started yelling, Jegeris and others decided to leave, citing ‘safety concerns.’
Below is video of KOTA-TV’s report on the misdemeanor charge and reaction.