Native Woman Sarah Lee Circle Bear Died in Police Custody in South Dakota

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 29, 2015

On July 6, 2015, 24-year-old Sarah Lee Circle Bear was found unconscious in a holding cell in the Brown County Jail in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. According to Indian Country Today, the Lakota woman was the mother of two young children. She was arrested on a bond violation.

Witnesses said Circle Bear told the police on duty at the jail that she was in pain, and was told to “knock it off” and “quit faking.” Other inmates joined her cries for help, and the police responded by dragging her from the cell and placing her in a holding cell elsewhere in the jail, which is where she was found, not breathing. The coroner, Mike Carlson, said his autopsy was inconclusive and he is awaiting toxicology and tissue analysis reports to make a ruling on her cause of death.

Circle Bear’s family is currently looking for an attorney to pursue a possible case against the sheriff’s department.