A 28-year-old woman, who was the victim of a brutal assault on Montana’s Crow Reservation, died from her injuries on Tuesday, reports the AP.
RoyLynn Rides Horse had been hospitalized since April 17, when she was beaten, choked, and set on fire by Dimarzio Swade Sanchez, 18, and Angelica Jo Whiteman, 23, near the border of the Northern Cheyenne reservation. Rides Horse suffered burns to over 45 percent of her body and severe frostbite on her legs. Her attackers were charged with assault to commit murder; FBI spokeswoman Sandra Barker said that the decision to file additional charges, now that Rides Horse has died, will be up to the prosecutors.
The deadly assault drew attention to the difficulties of policing on the reservation, which spans 31,000 square miles across the Montana/Wyoming border. Broadly spoke with Dewey Webb, the senior director of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association, who couldn’t comment on the specifics of this active investigation, but who confirmed that policing these large, rural areas of tribal land is a difficult task for law enforcement due to severe underfunding. Also at issue in Tribal Law Enforcement is retention of qualified people, which Webb said could be directly linked to low pay and hardships placed on Tribal officers in remote areas.
“When you live in a rural area, response time is usually counted in hours, not minutes,” said Webb. “Everybody has the misconception that tribes have casinos and plenty of money, but that isn’t the case. A lot of these tribes are out in the middle of nowhere. They don’t have a lot of economic development, and they don’t have a lot funds to put into their law enforcement.”
Following Rides Horse’s death, Montana politicians introduced legislation to to designate May 5, 2017, as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. They are hopeful that the resolution will draw attention to the fact that American Indian women are killed at a rate of more than ten times the national average.