PINE RIDGE | Federal authorities have announced they are investigating a pair of recent murders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as possibly related events.
Officials said Wednesday they are aggressively pursuing simultaneous investigations into the killing of Vinnie Brewer III, 29, of Pine Ridge on Sunday, in conjunction with the Sept. 29 murder of Chunta Suta Wi Colhoff, otherwise known as Annie Colhoff, 34, also of Pine Ridge.
Both killings took place in Pine Ridge Village; Colhoff's identity had not previously been released by police.
A statement released Wednesday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Randolph J. Seiler said the investigations are being considered a “top priority.”
“Authorities do not believe these shootings were random acts,” the statement reads, “but stem from disputes law enforcement authorities are investigating. Leads are being followed, persons are being interviewed, and search warrants are being executed.”
The murders of Brewer and Colhoff have contributed to a growing fear in the community of Pine Ridge Village that residents cannot depend on tribal law enforcement to protect them. In response, tribal authorities have announced plans to bolster the ranks of the police and the pending creation of a hotline for anonymous tipsters to provide information to law enforcement.
Brewer was fatally shot in broad daylight on the afternoon of Oct. 16 in a parking lot outside a community center where he had just finished participating in a basketball tournament. His killers — Oglala Sioux Tribal Police believe there are several attackers involved — remain at large.
The young man’s death is the latest in a string of murders on the reservation. Colhoff was fatally shot earlier this month, as was Todd Little Bull in August. In July, 13-year-old Te’ca Clifford was killed while walking home with her friends in Pine Ridge.
Their murders all remain under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What, if anything, connects the killing of Brewer and Colhoff remains unclear, but Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele ventured a theory during a press conference on Tuesday.
“This incident that happened is not just one incident,” Yellow Bird Steele said. “A person really sits down, he can connect the dots. And it’s several incidences of our tribal members being murdered. And it’s all related to drugs."
Members of the public with information that can aid the investigation are asked to call the BIA Office of Justice Services at 605-867-2931 or the FBI in Rapid City at 605-343-9632. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call the BIA tip line at 1-888-668-0661.