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In the early morning hours of Sept. 23, the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center’s emergency department called the Bemidji Police Department to report suspicions of a sexual assault against an 11-year-old girl.

The girl’s identity has not been shared publicly, but sources shared with Native News Online that she is Ojibwe, from one of the three Ojibwe Indian Reservations that surround Bemidji, Minnesota. 

Oscar Ernesto Luna, a 22-year-old man from Mission, Texas, is in custody and facing charges stemming from reports by the 11-year-old victim. Court documents report that the victim said she was tied up in a room at a home in Bemidji with two other young girls on both sides of her while four men took turns sexually assaulting the girls. The location of the home is within a city block of J.W. Smith Elementary School.  

Local police later identified Luna as a suspect based on descriptions provided by the 11-year-old victim. When a search warrant was executed at a house identified in the area, he was found in the house along with multiple items that had blood on them. Luna denied sexually assaulting the 11-year-old girl but admitted knowing the aunt of the victim, who she said brought her to the house where the incident occurred. 

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Luna provided a consensual DNA sample for testing while he faces one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree in Beltrami County. Luna also has active arrest warrants for driving while impaired cases in Hennepin County and will proceed with his prior criminal charges while the investigation develops. If convicted, Luna faces up to 30 years in Minnesota state prison. 

After the execution of the search warrant, Bemidji Police said they discovered several other individuals in the home, 11 of whom will be processed as illegal immigrants by U.S. Border Patrol. No information was made available to citizenship of the individuals found in the home where the warrant was executed, however. 

Emails from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation said that the Bemidji Police Department is the lead agency on the investigation and the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office is assisting. Both agencies did not respond to email inquiries or phone messages from Native News Online by press time. 

How the victim got to the location of the crime is unclear. Police reports indicate that the 11-year-old victim was with someone she called “auntie,” who was intoxicated on the night of Sept. 22 and “wanted to party.”  While with the older woman, the girl got into a man’s car, but did not say where or what kind of car, and a bag (of omitted material) was placed over her head while they drove to a home in Bemidji. There, the 11-year-old was forced to drink alcohol and then was tied up and witnessed other acts of abuse.

As of press time, no other arrests have been made in the case, including the person who the victim was with the evening of the crime and no other charges have been filed by the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office stemming from the investigation.

Last week, a two-day search for Nevaeh Kingbird, 15 years old at the time she was reported missing in 2021, was conducted by multiple organizations, including Tribes, non-profits, and state and federal agencies in Bemidji. Kingbird’s disappearance is one of several young Ojibwe people in the last few years. 

The investigation is currently ongoing, and the case is developing. 

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.