North Dakota County Wants Sheriff Back on Job Even Though He Failed to Seek Proper Care of American Indian Inmate

Dustin Irwin (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation) died in October 2014 as result of not Kukowsi’s jail not providing proper health care. Photo courtesy of Facebook


Published January 8, 2017

MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA— Sheriff Steve Kukowski of Ward County, North Dakota was suspended in June 2016 by former North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple after Kukowski was charged with three misdemeanors stemming from the death of an American Indian male inmate.

Ward County wants Sheriff Steve Kukowski back

Now, the Ward County wants their sheriff back on the job.

Last Tuesday, Ward County commissioners voted to ask North Dakota’s new Governor Doug Burgum to drop the proceedings to remove Kukowski.

Native News Online published a story last February about this sad situation:

Twenty-five-year-old Dustin Irwin (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation) died on October 6, 2014 shortly after being transferred from the Ward County Jail to Burleigh County authorities.

Sheriff Steven Kukowski and Captain Michael Nason, who retired last in January 2016, are accused of failing to seek care for Irwin. The sheriff was charged with refusing to perform a public duty and two counts of endangerment. Retired Ward County Capt. Michael Nason was charged with reckless endangerment in Irwin’s death.

The charges come after a special investigator probed the reason for Irwin’s death.

In a criminal affidavit filed by the State of North Dakota last February, the special investigator said Sheriff Kukowski failed to provide proper medical care for Irwin. The affidavit cites that over the course of three days, Irwin was “incoherent,” “urinating on himself” and “disoriented.”

The affidavit continues that the sheriff did not seek medical attention for Irwin because of “dollars and cents”. The complaint said the sheriff was concerned about the jail’s budget.

At the time of the incident, the jail was being run at over 150 percent of capacity.

Kukowski is yet to be tried for the three misdemeanors. His trial slated to begin last week on January 3, 2017 was delayed upon request of his defense attorney.

One county commissioner argued since the charges against Kukowski are not felonies, he should not be removed even if convicted of his failure to perform his public duty and two counts of endangerment.

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