North Dakota Sheriff & Former Police Captain Face Charges in Death of Three Affiliated Tribes Member

Published February 22, 2016

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Photo courtesy of Facebook

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKTOA— The Ward County sheriff in North Dakota and a retired captain have been charged in the death of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation man. Twenty-five-year-old Dustin Irwin 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 month, 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 Thursday, 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.

The affidavit also alleges that nine officers with the department remained employed for at least a year without proper training for handling inmates.

Even though Irwin died as a result of their negligence, the sheriff and former captain were charged with misdemeanors.

The cases were assigned to Supreme Court Justice Lolita Harti Romanick. Both Kukowski and Nason will appear in court on March 21.

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