By Red Power Media, Staff
After over a month of investigation, Attorney General announced Thursday that Sarah Lee Circle Bear died of a meth overdose.
The 24-year-old Lakota woman from Claremont, died while in Brown County Jail, the afternoon of July 5, some 52 or so hours after being arrested.
The attorney general’s office explains the death was due to acute methamphetamine/amphetamine toxicity.
As the state’s investigation now turns to the source of the meth, a timeline is becoming clear that limits when Circle Bear could have been in possession of the drug.
Circle Bear was initially taken into custody July 3 by the South Dakota Highway Patrol after being involved in a traffic accident in Roberts County around 7 or 8 a.m., said Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
Wayne Pahl was also in the vehicle with Circle Bear during the accident, Rabern said. Both taken to the Roberts County Jail.
At the Roberts County Jail, it was discovered that Circle Bear was wanted in Brown County for a bond violation. She spent most of July 3, a Friday, in the jail until she was taken to the Brown County Jail, Rabern said.
Circle Bear arrived at the Brown County Jail just before midnight on July 3, Rabern said.
Generally, when an inmate goes through the intake process at the Brown County Jail, he or she is required to undergo a health screening. Staffers ask the inmate a series of medical questions, including about the use or ingestion of any drugs or alcohol.
Authorities have not said if Circle Bear was intoxicated or on drugs when she was booked into Brown County Jail.
On July 5, Circle Bear was found in a holding cell unconscious and unresponsive and taken to Avera St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was declared dead by a doctor.
Brown County coroner Michael Carlsen said Circle Bear was declared dead at 1:22 p.m. July 5 at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital. However, a Marshall County court document seeking court-appointed attorney fees concerning a case in which Circle Bear faced minor drug charges includes a clerk’s note that Circle Bear died in the Brown County Jail.
From the time Circle Bear was arrested in Roberts County until the time of her death, she was in custody.
Circle Bear’s family questions the circumstances of her death.
It is unknown as to how the toxic and deadly levels of methamphetamine (meth) found a way into Circle Bear’s bloodstream, and her father, Terrence Circle Bear, has his doubts about the cause of death.
“How did she get that much meth?” Terrence Circle Bear said by phone Friday.
Circle Bear said another daughter, Adrienne Yancey, is in possession of the jumpsuit Sarah Circle Bear was wearing at the time of her death.
“It had blood on it,” Terrence Circle Bear said. “How do you explain that from a meth overdose?
Circle Bear’s family said that she was pregnant at the time of her death. But, evidence of a pregnancy was unfounded during the autopsy.
The autopsy also showed no indication that Circle Bear had, for example, swallowed a plastic bag that contained meth.
Brown County Sheriff Mark Milbrandt declined to comment until an ongoing state investigation into the source of the meth is finished.
Brown County coroner Mike Carlsen told the Associated Press that Circle Bear had sustained minor injuries from a car crash sometime prior to her death.
A witnesses said that when Circle Bear was transferred to the holding cell, she told guards that she was in excruciating pain. Jail personnel reportedly told her to “quit faking” and “knock it off” before lifting her partway off the floor and dragging her to the cell where she was later found unconscious.
Circle Bear’s death is making the rounds in some online media as a parallel to the Sandra Bland case in Texas.
The death of Bland, an African American woman who died in a jail cell on July 13 , has the nation abuzz about the ongoing saga of police brutality against people of color, and this time, it is becoming even more apparent just how poorly women of color are treated.
Even if the death of Circle Bear, is what the autopsy report says it is, why did Brown County Jail officials not see signs of drug use and an overdose reaction coming?