Former Oglala Sioux Tribe Police Officer Awaits Fate In Excessive Force Trial

Video: Oglala Sioux Tribe officer Excessive Force, Taser Use

By Red Power Media, Staff

Former police officer who tasered tribal member awaiting fate

Closing arguments were heard in federal court Friday afternoon in a case involving a former Oglala Sioux tribal police officer accused of improperly using a taser on an intoxicated tribal member.

The Rapid City Journal reports that a jury failed to reach a verdict Friday following the three-day trial of 33-year-old Rebecca Sotherland. The jury is slated to resume deliberations on Monday.

According to the Associated Press authorities said Sotherland last year used a Taser several times on Jeffrey Eagle Bull, who was lying on the ground. A passer-by shot video and posted it online, drawing attention to the incident that happened in Manderson.

Sotherland was fired shortly after the incident. She is charged with deprivation of constitutional rights by the use of unreasonable force by a police officer; assault with a dangerous weapon; and obstruction of a federal investigation by filing a false report of the incident.

She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The prosecution said Eagle Bull was so intoxicated he had passed out and had no ability to respond to Sotherland’s commands. Sotherland and her defense attorney argued Eagle Bull was “playing possum” to avoid incarceration.

 Officer Becki Sotherland talks to kids after a 911 call reported an adult was intoxicated. No one was found and Sotherland suspected it was a prank call. Pine Ridge Reservation has a massive problem with alcoholism. Although alcohol sales are banned on the reservation, the nearby border town of Whiteclay, Nebraska has four liquor stores, which sold over 4.9 million cans of beer in 2010 to mostly Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge. Alcoholism is estimated to affect 85 percent of the families.

Oglala Sioux Tribe, Officer Becky Sotherland at a home after a 911 call reported an adult was intoxicated. No one was found and Sotherland suspected it was a prank call. Manderson, SD. Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum for MSNBC. .

The incident occurred Aug. 15, 2014. Sotherland was dispatched to a house in Manderson on a welfare call.

Eagle Bull, then 32, was lying in a shallow hole against the house. On a video captured by the camera Sotherland wore on her head, which was shown in court, she is seen cajoling Eagle Bull to get up and into her police vehicle. During that, she frequently used a Taser weapon on him, much of the time when he was fully stretched out on the ground.

In the 26 minutes of video, the prosecution counted 28 Taser jolts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Koliner said Eagle Bull drank a gallon of vodka that day, and his blood alcohol content was 0.319 percent four hours after his last drink. The legal level of intoxication for drivers in South Dakota is 0.08 percent.

A Taser is to be used to immobilize people who are threats, Koliner said, “not a tool to pick someone up and get him into a car.”

Authorities have said that Eagle Bull was not seriously hurt in the incident.