‘Quit Faking’: Jailers Allegedly Ignore Sarah Lee Circle Bear’s Dying Pleas
Staff at a South Dakota jail allegedly ignored and mocked the pleas of a Native American mother who was later found unconscious in her cell and died that same day.
Sarah Lee Circle Bear, a 24-year-old Lakota woman from Clairmont, South Dakota, was jailed on a bond violation in the Brown County Jail in Aberdeen. KDLT reports Circle Bear had two pending cases for driving under the influence.
Indian Country Today reports Circle Bear was found unconscious in a holding cell on July 6. According to witnesses, the young woman pleaded for help, saying she was in excruciating pain. Her jailers allegedly dismissed her pleas, telling her to “knock it off” and “quit faking.”
Inmates loudly and repeatedly attempted to get help for Circle Bear, and staff eventually dragged her to a holding cell, where she was later found unresponsive. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she died later that day.
Brown County coroner Mike Carlsen told KDLT that the results of an autopsy conducted three days after Circle Bear’s death were inconclusive. Carlsen said the woman had suffered minor injuries in a minor car crash the day of her arrest and death, but that those injuries would not have caused her death.
Circle Bear was the mother of two boys, ages 2 and 1. She is at least the second Native American person to die in jail under questionable conditions this month. On July 14, Choctaw activist Rexdale Henry, 53, died in the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi after being arrested for failure to pay a minor traffic citation.