RAPID CITY— The Trace O’Connell trial recessed on Thursday with the judge saying he will make a decision in three to four weeks. O’Connell is accused of spraying beer on a group of 57 Lakota students from the American Horse Day school at a Rapid City Rush hockey game on January 24, 2015.
O’Connell faces one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct even though witnesses saw the group of 57 students from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He allegedly told the students to “go back to the reservation” during the incident. Several American Indians feel O’Connell should have faced more charges, including a hate crime charge.
Trace O’Connell is third from left
O’Connell was in corporate suite owned by Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, which is the Anheuser Busch distributor for the region.
Dozens of American Indians came out to the trial at the Rapid City High School’s Performing Arts Center to accommodate the anticipated larger crowd that was interested in attending the highly publicized case. Included in the trial attendees were Dennis Banks, the co-founder of the American Indian Movement; and Jim Cross and Craig Dillon, who both serve on the Oglala Sioux Tribe Tribal Council.
Dennis Banks addresses the trial attendees.
Witnesses for the defense testified they had been drinking during the afternoon of the night game and continued to drink during the game. The defense witnessed did not deny beer was sprayed on the American Indian students, but testified it was an accident.
After the trial adjourned on Thursday, many parents and grandparents of the students were upset that several witnesses who attended the game and served as chaperones were not even called to testify to tell their side of the story.
O’Connell did not attend the first day of the trial. However, he was escorted in and out of the Arts Center surrounded by almost a dozen of police officers.
Diane DuBray contributed to this story from Rapid City, South Dakota. Photographs by Diane DuBray.