Posts Tagged ‘A.J. LongSoldier’

A.J. Longsoldier, 18, who died after falling ill in jail. (Fort Belknap photo)

A.J. Longsoldier, 18, who died after falling ill in jail. (Fort Belknap photo)

A lot was going on yesterday at the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council meeting.

The group heard from Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, who made a rare visit to Montana.

And, it asked Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of 18-year-old basketball star A.J. Longsoldier, who died shortly after he was taken from a northern Montana jail to a nearby hospital.

Susan Olp of the Billings Gazette has the story here:

Keel, who is Chickasaw, spoke about the Indian Health Care Improvement Act; the problem of inadequate and deteriorating reservation housing, and the overwhelming issue of under-funding for Indian Country issues in general.

Tribal Leaders Council James Steele Jr. of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, talked about the difficulty of maintaining reservation roads with federal funding.

But perhaps the most emotional issue was the approval of the resolution calling for action surrounding the death of Longsoldier, from the Fort Belknap Reservation and a former basketball standout at Hays-Lodgepole High School. He was jailed on an alleged probation violation. During his two days in jail, he complained of feeling ill, and was twice taken to the hospital and died the second time:

    While in jail, he appeared to be hallucinating, was talking to himself and pulled out some of his hair. An autopsy determined that LongSoldier died from acute alcohol withdrawal. A coroner’s inquest in March found that the detention officers were not criminally liable in the death.

    Tracy King, president of the Fort Belknap Tribal Council, who attended the inquest, raised the issue at the meeting. King said more should have been done for LongSoldier to help save his life.

    He called the handling of the youth in jail “a civil rights violation.”

“I see too many of our youth being railroaded by systems that don’t work in their favor,” King said.

Dr. Kathleen Masis, who works for the Tribal Leaders Council, calls his death a warning.

“It means we need to make sure what is represented as happening never happens again, to an Indian or non-Indian.”

Gwen Florio

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AJ Longsoldier attempts to block the shot of Big Sandy’s Corbin Pearson during the State Class C Championship Game. (Havre Daily News photo)

A.J. LongSoldier (right) attempts to block the shot of Big Sandy’s Corbin Pearson during the State Class C Championship Game. (Havre Daily News photo)

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A.J. LongSoldier, who died shortly after being taken from Montana’s Hill County jail to a nearby hospital, died of natural causes, a coroner says.

“There was no foul play involved,” says Fergus County Coroner Dick Brown. He says it could be a month before more tests determine the cause of death, according to this AP story.

LongSoldier, 18, was a standout high school basketball player who led Hays-Lodgepole, on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, to a Class C state championship as a sophomore in 2007.

The story reports that The state Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating LongSoldier’s death, said division chief John Strandell, and a coroner’s inquest will be scheduled because LongSoldier died while in jail.

Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Heustis says LongSoldier didn’t say anything about feeling sick when he was booked into the jail last Thursday on a contempt of court warrant for a juvenile charge. But another inmate says LongSoldier complained the next day about feeling nauseous.

“He was kind of yelling for the guards,” Don Farrar tells the Great Falls Tribune. “He said he wasn’t feeling well, that he was losing color, that he couldn’t hold anything down.”

LongSoldier went to the hospital by ambulance late Sunday night and died Monday morning.

Gwen Florio

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A.J. LongSoldier (Havre Daily News)

A.J. LongSoldier (Havre Daily News)

A.J. Longsoldier, who led his Hays-Lodge Pole (Mont.) high school basketball team to the 2007 Class C championship, was pronounced dead yesterday after being taken to a hospital from the Hill County Jail.

I was devastated,” Charlie Ereaux, who coached Long Soldier at Hays-Lodge Pole, told the Havre Daily News, here. “I couldn’t believe it.”

LongSoldier, 18, was pronounced dead at Northern Montana Hospital several hours after being brought there from the Hill County Jail, Sheriff Don Brostrom tells the News’ Alice Campbell.

“I didn’t even know he was in jail,” his mother Dayna Bear says, here. “I loved him.”

County Attorney Donald Ranstrom says LongSoldier was arrested in Blaine County on a warrant for a charge of violation of court order, and went into the jail Thursday. Ranstrom said he could not supply details because it involved a juvenile case.

An autopsy yesterday revealed no apparent cause of death, but a coroner’s inquest will be held, authorities say.

“I loved that kid,” Ereaux said. But he says that after LongSoldier transferred to Harlem in his junior year, “it kind of fell apart for him,” Ereaux said. “He really loved basketball, and he wanted to play bad – he did – it’s just he had a rough life growing up.” Still, he says, many Division I schools were “drooling” over LongSoldier.

Ereaux tells Campbell that LongSoldier completed a treatment program last year. He was enrolled as a freshman at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas but withdrew last month, Campbell reports.

“A.J. will be missed, but he will not be forgotten,” Ereaux says. There’s a lot of hurt people around here. He made a lot of hope for a lot of people.”

Gwen Florio

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