Lakota Country Times: Tragedy claims lives of three Native men

The Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety set up a unified command center as part of the search for three men who went missing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on May 7, 2016. Officials also continue to look for another man, Alejandro "Tank" Vasquez, who went missing last October. Photo from OSTDPS / Facebook
Tragedy claims lives of missing men
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE— The frantic two-week long effort to find three men who missing from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation came to an end on Monday, May 23, when a hunter came across a vehicle submerged in a ravine northwest of Pine Ridge.

The vehicle found at the bottom of the ravine was the same Silver 2006 Buick Lacrosse that so many across the region had sought help in finding via social media. The car was the last vehicle seen carrying three men who had been missing since May 7, 2016.

On Tuesday, May 24, 2016, Oglala Sioux Tribal Law Enforcement along with the Pennington County Search and Rescue retrieved the remains of Tevin Tyon, 21, Juan Lamont,24, and Tyrell Wilson, 23, from a gorge on the north-side of BIA Route 41.

The three men were the subject of a massive reservation wide search that scoured the Pine Ridge Reservation for the last two weeks. First responders were joined by members of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Criminal Investigation team stationed in Pine Ridge at the location.

“The search is over and we now have some answers, but I am deeply saddened with the outcome,” said Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele. “The loss of these young lives is distressing. My prayers go out to their family members,” he added.

Tevin Tyon, Juan Lamont, and Tyrell Wilson went missing on the Pine Ridge Reservation on May 7, 2016. Image from Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety / Facebook

The vehicle was located approximately 800 feet from BIA Route 41 where early reports are saying the car then drove off a 50-70ft drop into a ravine. The car itself was located in a flat area with tall grass below a drop-off “that couldn’t be seen until you are right up on it,” said an emergency official with the tribe. The area where the car was found had been searched by both nearby residents and multiple search parties previously, but was unfortunately “missed by us” said the same official.

Efforts to find the missing men were conducted under an unprecedented veil of cooperation between community, tribal, state and federal agencies who worked night and day looking for the missing trio.

“Several entities came together for a coordinated effort with the OST DPS, including, but not limited to, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice, the United States Marshal’s Office, the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and our neighboring law enforcement departments,” said the tribe in a press release.

Hundreds of tribal-citizens also took part in the search by providing technical support, manpower, food, monetary donations, horses, and vehicles in hopes of finding the men.

“The Tribe greatly appreciates the dedicated assistance of all in this search,” President Steele said. “The cooperation among the many entities was outstanding, and the volunteers cannot be thanked enough,” he added.

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Jessica Mesteth, the mother of Tyrell Wilson, took to Facebook to express her thanks to those who helped with the search.

“Our boys have been found. Although it’s not the outcome we hoped and prayed for, we take comfort in knowing they were together. Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers. Thank you to everyone who took part in helping to search for our boys, no matter how big or small the effort. Please continue to pray for our families and friends as we lay our boys to rest.”

Both Wilson and Lamont were government employees who worked at the Pine Ridge Hospital. Tevin Tyon was a member of the South Dakota National Guard and had just recently returned home from a tour of active duty.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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